ELLSWORTH — Looking to rebound from a 20-point loss, the Ellsworth girls’ basketball team went back to the drawing board.
After notching a difficult road win against Orono to open the season last Saturday, Andy Pooler’s Ellsworth Eagles had the chance to earn another Wednesday when it returned to Penobscot County for a matchup with Old Town. Instead, Ellsworth fell behind early and couldn’t catch up in a 50-30 defeat.
Over the next few days, Pooler decided a different strategy was in order for the Eagles’ next contest. Between making changes to the offense and toying with new lineups, he focused on adjustments that would use his team’s depth to wear down its opponents.
“Our next practice after [the Old Town game], I came in and said, ‘Guys, how about this team turns the heat up?’” Pooler said. “With the number of bodies we have, it seemed like a good time to make that change. I just thought it was a good way to keep our legs fresh and give us that added edge.”
On Saturday, the Eagles had the chance to put that game plan into action in their first home game of the year. In doing so, Pooler’s team got back on track with a decisive victory against a Hancock County foe.
Ellsworth bounced back from a tough midweek result against Old Town with a 62-29 win Saturday against George Stevens Academy. The win came in the first of five straight home games for Ellsworth, which is looking to gain a leg up in the Class B North standings as 2018 comes to a close.
Pooler began the game with one of last year’s returning starters, Sara Shea, on the bench. That allowed the home team to see what some of its newcomers could do while ensuring Shea could come in fresh later in the game, and the plan paid off as Ellsworth (2-1) dominated the first eight minutes to take a 20-5 lead.
“We kind of wanted to do what Old Town did to us and just put it to them right away,” junior Trinity Montigny said. “I think we were also just pumped and ready to go with it being our first home game. We had a lot of energy.”
GSA (0-4) fought back in the second quarter, but Ellsworth continued to stretch its lead with the play of sophomore Samantha Carter. Carter responded to a brief GSA run with a trio of 3-pointers, and the Eagles built on that newfound momentum to carry a 37-14 advantage into halftime.
“One of the reasons we’ve tried to spread out and add wrinkles to the offense a little bit is because of her ability to shoot the 3,” Pooler said of Carter. “I started her today to see how she would respond to that, and she went and got her confidence going there when she went on that run.”
Montigny, who took a back seat in the first half with some of the younger players providing the bulk of the offense, got going in the second with six points in the third quarter. She scored six more in the fourth for Ellsworth, which also got eight second-half points from Samantha Higgins.
Montigny finished with a game-high 16 points for Ellsworth, which received 11 from Carter and eight apiece from Higgins, Shea and Kylie Robidoux. Sophia Biggie-Jennings, Mallory Charette and Luna Perry-St Peter had six points each for GSA, which is scheduled to host Bucksport (1-2) at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, and Sumner (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21.
Ellsworth’s next game will be at home against Belfast (0-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. The team will then host Presque Isle and Caribou at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 27 and 1 p.m. Dec. 28, respectively, before ending its five-game home stand with a rematch against Orono at 1 p.m. Dec. 31.
If Ellsworth can make that stretch a winning one, it will be at or near the top of the Heals when the 2019 portion of the schedule begins. To do so, the team must continue to make the types of improvements it did against GSA.
“I think we still need to get a little bit better at rebounding,” Shea said. “We were better [today] than we were against Old Town, but there’s always a chance to improve in every category this time of year.”