George Stevens Academy’s Stefan Simmons defends against Ellsworth’s Zach Harris during the second half of a high school boys’ basketball game Dec. 15 in Blue Hill. Harris tied teammate Jackson Curtis with a team-high 12 points on the night, but GSA came away with a 60-38 victory to hand Ellsworth its first loss of the season.. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

GSA boys’ basketball team stifles Ellsworth to get back on track

BLUE HILL — The George Stevens Academy boys’ basketball team’s season didn’t start as anyone had anticipated. In front of a raucous crowd in their home opener, the Eagles needed a response that would remind everyone of their potential.

Fans packed the gymnasium at George Stevens Academy from wall to wall as they eagerly anticipated the first of the season’s two boys’ basketball matchups between GSA and Ellsworth. If there were empty seats inside or open parking spaces outside, they were lapped up in seconds, and if there were fans in attendance wearing colors other than maroon or white, they were hard to find.

Less than a week earlier, many of those fans received some stunning news as they were hunkering down from a snowstorm that covered much of eastern Maine: The GSA boys had lost their season opener. The 62-47 defeat to Lee Academy was the team’s first since February 2016, and it was a hard one for the two-time defending state champion Eagles to take.

“It hurt, and it hurt badly,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “We hadn’t felt that in a long time. Some of our younger players haven’t felt that at all.”

Although GSA didn’t have a large fan contingent travel to Lee for that Dec. 9 game, there were few who weren’t in the crowd for this one. Rather than putting on one of its notorious scoring displays, Carter’s Eagles used a different approach to get a result that made the GSA faithful breathe a little easier.

George Stevens Academy’s Taylor Schildroth looks to pass against Ellsworth’s Brad Smith during the first half of a high school boys’ basketball game Dec. 15 in Blue Hill. Schildroth led all scorers with 20 points in GSA’s win. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

GSA used stifling defense to earn a 60-38 win over Ellsworth in its home opener Friday night. The win gave Carter’s Eagles their second in a row and, more importantly, a triumph over a rival that has been a measuring stick for their success the past few seasons.

Both teams started off the game with misses from the field before GSA’s Max Mattson made a thunderous block that sent the fans into raptures. That sparked a run that put the home team up 11-3 with the help of two Caden Mattson 3-pointers, and GSA (2-1) rode that momentum to a 19-8 lead after one quarter of play.

GSA struggled more from the field in the second quarter, but the team’s defensive play kept Ellsworth leading scorers Zach Harris and Jackson Curtis from doing damage from the 3-point line. That game plan allowed GSA to extend its lead to 48-23 entering the final quarter of play, and the home team weathered a stretch of poor shooting in the final minutes to secure a vital win.

“We’ve wanted to get more consistent with our defense after the Lee loss, and we had some matchups we knew were key,” Carter said. “Caden Mattson played great against Harris, and Percy [Zentz] and Stefan [Simmons] took Curtis and played him pretty well.”

GSA’s Taylor Schildroth led all scorers with 20 points, and Max Mattson added 10 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Harris and Curtis scored 12 points each for Ellsworth (1-1).

GSA had defeated Deer Isle-Stonington two days earlier, but Ellsworth provided a different challenge because of the history between the two. The all-Eagles showdown has produced some of the area’s highest attendances and best action in recent years, and the Feb. 2, 2016, showdown between the two was the last time GSA lost a game before falling at Lee.

Carter hasn’t completely forgotten that season-opening loss, and he doesn’t even want to. GSA, he said, has looked less complacent in its past two games, and the feeling the head coach and his players had after the loss is one they want to ensure they don’t feel again.

“A loss isn’t always a bad thing,” Carter said. “Sometimes you have to feel that to remind yourself that everybody’s going to bring their A-game when they play you. We need to play every team the same every game, and that’s what we’ve stressed since then.”

GSA plays on the road against Bucksport (3-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. Ellsworth hosts Old Town (1-1) at 7 p.m. the following day.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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