ELLSWORTH — Hours before he would cement his name in Ellsworth basketball history, Jackson Curtis took his mother on a trip down memory lane.
As Ellsworth’s Saturday afternoon tip-off against Presque Isle neared, Curtis, the Eagles’ leading scorer, was just 22 points away from joining the acclaimed 1,000-point club. Thinking back on his journey toward Ellsworth basketball stardom, he reminded his mom where he had been five years earlier.
“He said to me, ‘Mom, remember when Dad coached me in seventh grade, and I didn’t even start on that team?’” Shannon Curtis recalled. “‘Well, look at me now.’”
Indeed, Curtis has made remarkable strides en route to becoming a prolific player for a program that’s had no shortage of them over the years. Now, after another in a long line of dogged individual efforts, his name will hang in Katsiaficas Gymnasium among the greatest to don an Ellsworth uniform.
Jackson Curtis became the newest member of the Ellsworth basketball’s 1,000-point club Saturday in the Eagles’ 64-47 victory against Presque Isle. He reached the milestone on a free throw with 26.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the blowout win.
Curtis, whose 18 points Friday night against Caribou put him 22 from the 1,000 mark, put Presque Isle on notice early with six points in the opening five minutes. After continuing his strong offensive showing into the second quarter, Curtis went to the locker room seven points away as Ellsworth (11-3) held a 35-21 lead.
Although Curtis struggled somewhat to begin the second half, he quickly regained his form as he sank three baskets to move within one point of 1,000. Then, with Ellsworth leading 45-26 late in the third quarter, he went to the free-throw line after Presque Isle (6-9) was called for a technical foul.
“When I went to the line after [the technical foul], I heard everybody yelling and cheering,” Curtis said. “That’s when I was like, ‘Wow, it’s really happening.’”
Curtis came close on the first of his two attempts, but a last-second bounce of the ball the other way kept him at 999. His second attempt also hung around the rim, but after a soft kiss off the glass, the ball sank to the bottom of the net to send Katsiaficas Gymnasium wild.
After his teammates collectively mobbed him at the free-throw line, Curtis looked up at his parents in the bleachers. He wasn’t emotional at first, but when he saw his mother smiling amidst a sea of fans waving “1,000” signs, that all changed.
“Going to the line, I was trying not to think about it as much as I could, but that got me emotional,” Curtis said. “That’s when I realized how big of an accomplishment it is.”
The game was stopped for five minutes as Curtis was recognized at midcourt. Ellsworth head coach Peter Austin awarded the game ball to Curtis, who was joined by his family members as fans, players and coaches from both teams applauded.
“He’s been a huge player for us for four years,” Austin said. “He’s come up big for us numerous times, and now he’s at the point where he’s averaging 20 per game. … He came through again tonight.”
In a somewhat ironic twist, Curtis reached the 1,000 mark on the free throw he felt was the worst of the two; his first attempt felt good as it left his hands, but the second, which did not, was the one that ultimately bounced home.
“The first one felt better than the second one, definitely,” Curtis said. “That’s basketball, I guess.”
As the free throws followed a technical foul, no players were positioned along the lane as Curtis shot. Yet after the senior’s second attempt fell through the nylon, his brother, Hunter, sprinted from midcourt to be the first player to congratulate him.
Watching her two sons embrace from the stands, Shannon Curtis was giddy with excitement. Although she had originally told herself she wasn’t going to cry, the mother of three couldn’t help but shed tears of joy when the moment finally happened.
“I was laughing out loud, and then I think I stopped thinking after that,” Shannon Curtis said. “It was a blur, and then my heart just wanted to weep out of my chest.”
Curtis, who scored five more points in the fourth quarter to finish the game with 27, joins John Edes (1954), Jack Scott (1954), Billy Whitmore (1978), Dick Scott (1981), Tim Scott (1988), Nick Johnston (1999) and Corey Dewitt (2007) as Ellsworth boys’ players to reach 1,000 career points. Lynne Wescott, the only Ellsworth girls’ player to reach the milestone, did so in 1988.
Ellsworth will be back in action against John Bapst (1-12) at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, at Eastern Maine Community College, and host Foxcroft (4-10) for Senior Night at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at Ellsworth High School. The Eagles will then play on the road against Hermon at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday, Feb. 1, before facing Mount Desert Island at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in Bar Harbor.
With those games and the Class B North tournament still remaining, Curtis will be hoping to end his high school basketball career on a high note in the coming weeks. No matter what, after going from riding the bench in seventh grade to posting one of high school basketball’s most prestigious individual achievements as a senior, he has his father, Dan, to thank.
“My dad has pushed me ever since I was little, and it shows that hard work pays off,” Curtis said. “I couldn’t be more thankful for everything.”