BANGOR — Long before the 2019-20 season began, many basketball junkies across the state saw this Class B North championship game battle coming.
With the Ellsworth and Caribou boys’ basketball teams returning the bulk of their production from a season ago, the two were widely tipped at the beginning of the season to meet in the Northern Maine tournament’s final game. The two lived up the billing with the Vikings claiming the No. 1 seed in Class B North and the Eagles taking the No. 2 spot.
That matchup took place at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday as Caribou defeated Ellsworth 62-40 to win the Northern Maine title for the second year in a row. The result marked the end of the high school basketball season in Hancock County, which will not have a team playing in a state final for the first time in five years.
“It was a great year, and I’m proud of this group of guys,” Ellsworth head coach Peter Austin said. “They had high expectations this year, and they worked really hard to make it this far.”
After Ellsworth scored the first points of the game on a long 2 from Darby Barry, No. 1 Caribou (20-1) took a 4-2 lead on nifty moves to the basket by Parker Deprey and Isaac Marker. The Vikings stifled Ellsworth’s offense throughout the rest of the first quarter, but after Caribou took an 18-10 lead early in the second, the Eagles got back within four as J’Von James nailed four consecutive free throws.
From there, though, Caribou blew the game wide open as Deprey keyed a 17-0 run that gave the Vikings a 21-point lead in the blink of an eye. The senior captain’s back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers were particularly devastating to No. 2 Ellsworth (17-4), which finally stopped the bleeding with a pair of baskets from Jackson Curtis to head to the break trailing 35-18.
“We had a couple of shots go in and out, and they were getting theirs to fall,” Austin said. “If we make a couple of those shots, we might loosen up a little bit on the offensive end, but we just couldn’t seem to get anything going.”
Ellsworth had its moments in the third quarter but only got within 16 points of the defending state champions. Although a strong start to the fourth by James got the Eagles within 15 points, Caribou responded with 12 of the final 17 to defeat Ellsworth for the third time this season and take home another Northern Maine title.
James led Ellsworth with 12 points, and Curtis joined him in double figures with 11. The Eagles also got six points from freshman Eamon McDonald, five from Hunter Curtis and two apiece from Barry, Kolbe Hardy and Adam Inman. Deprey led Caribou with a game-high 21 points.
Caribou head coach Kyle Corrigan spoke highly of Ellsworth, which he said played “very well” despite the lopsided final score. He also took a moment during the awards ceremony to congratulate Jackson Curtis, and Curtis and the Eagles reciprocated the gesture by passionately applauding the Vikings as they accepted their gold medals and championship plaque at midcourt.
“All of those Ellsworth kids are fantastic kids, and I think you saw that when they all came over and started clapping for us,” Corrigan said. “That was just tremendous sportsmanship on their end. … It’s unfortunate that one of us had to lose today.”
The loss marked the end for Ellsworth seniors Barry, Jackson Curtis, Hardy, Inman, James, Connor Crawford, Austin Harris and Nick Kane. That senior class formed the backbone of this year’s team, which jumped from 14 wins to 17 this season after improving from 11 to 14 the year before.
“Those seniors will always be pretty special to me,” Austin said. “They’re good basketball players and good people, and they’ve worked hard to mature and to get better every year.”