ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth boys’ basketball team entered the 2018-19 season looking to make a statement. A home opener against one of its most familiar opponents provided the perfect stage to do it.
Prior to Friday evening, Ellsworth’s latest win against George Stevens Academy came in the midst of an unusually warm winter stretch in February 2016. The home team’s 60-58 triumph in front of a packed house that day was a preview of what would become championship runs for both squads over the next month.
Since then, Ellsworth has last four straight in the Battle of the Eagles while watching its intra-county foe win two more state championships. Yet on Friday, more than 1,000 days since that encounter, a different Ellsworth team cleared a monumental by earning a rivalry win of its own — and showing it has what it takes to compete with the best of the best.
The Ellsworth boys’ basketball team exorcised its demons in emphatic fashion Friday with a 65-36 win over GSA. Ellsworth never trailed in the game, in which it handed the visitors their worst loss in more than six years.
“It just feels unreal,” Ellsworth junior Jackson Curtis said. “For most of us, this is the first time Ellsworth has won this game since we’ve been in high school. This is a great team win for our guys.”
Brothers Jackson and Hunter Curtis powered Ellsworth (2-1) from the opening tip with six points apiece in the first quarter, after which their team held a 15-7 lead. With Jackson and Darby Barry leading the way in the second quarter, Ellsworth took a 31-21 lead into halftime.
Ellsworth pulled away gradually in the third quarter with a combined 19 points from Barry and the Curtis brothers. Holding GSA (2-1) to just two points in the fourth, the home team turned the game into a route to secure its biggest margin of victory since an 80-41 win over Foxcroft on Dec. 10, 2016.
“‘Wow’ is all I can say, really,” Ellsworth head coach Peter Austin said. “We gave them a few easy shots here and there, but for the most part, over 32 minutes, we played hard. I’m so proud of all these guys.”
Jackson Curtis scored a game-high 21 points for Ellsworth, which got 18 points from Barry and 13 from Hunter Curtis. Senior Percy Zentz led GSA in scoring with 14 points, and junior Caden Mattson added eight.
The loss provided an unfamiliar feeling for GSA, which came into the game sporting a record of 66-2 since the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Not since an 83-49 loss to Mount Desert Island on Feb. 2, 2012, have the visitors been on the losing end of a more lopsided result.
“Our guys aren’t pleased with their performance at all,” Carter said. “We made a lot of mental mistakes on defense, and we didn’t execute and didn’t shoot well on offense. Ellsworth is a good, well-coached team, and the way we hurt ourselves and the way they kept punishing us for our mistakes was just too much.”
On the Ellsworth side, the win came in the first of five straight home contests to wrap up the calendar year. The team will get seven full days of rest before it hosts Belfast at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday, Dec. 22.
Despite his team earning its biggest win in the past 40 games, Austin didn’t make too much of how that result was delivered. Instead, it was its potential impact down line that satisfied him the most.
“This one helps us a lot in the Heals because GSA is going to win a lot of games, and we get the chance now to rest up and then get ready for next Saturday,” Austin said. “This was a good win, but it’s just one win, and we have to remember that because GSA could be the ones who beat us by 30 when we play them in Blue Hill. They’re that good.”
GSA will look to recover from the loss quickly with two midweek games on the upcoming schedule. Carter’s squad will host Bucksport (1-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, before going on the road to face Sumner (3-0) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20.
“At the end of the day, you just have to hand it to Ellsworth because they simply outplayed us tonight from the start,” Carter said. “They really humbled us, and this is going to drive us to get a lot better.”