BLUE HILL — The faces of the boys wearing George Stevens Academy’s maroon and white basketball uniforms have changed a lot over the years; the team’s mission, winning the Gold Ball, has not.
Long one of Hancock County and Downeast Maine’s top basketball programs, the GSA boys’ success has reached new heights in recent seasons. With the Eagles having won the past three Class C titles, no member of the current team has played a varsity season that didn’t conclude with a state championship.
Even without many of the standouts who contributed at one point or another en route to back-to-back-to-back state championships, this year’s Eagles are still capable of putting on quite a show. They’re fast, they’re tough, they’re potent on both ends of the floor and, most importantly, they’re determined to bring another trophy back home.
“Everyone thinks we’re not going to be as good as we really are,” team captain Percy Zentz said. “All five starters on our team can score and defend. People just haven’t taken notice because they haven’t seen them yet.”
Opposing players, coaches and fans are definitely taking notice now. Although GSA is just two games into the new season, the 2-0 Eagles look for the moment as if they’ve picked up where they left off last winter.
“I think we’ve showed a lot of good things in different ways so far,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said after the Eagles’ win over Deer Isle-Stonington on Tuesday. “In the first game, we were able to get a win despite how tight we looked most of the game. Tonight, we showed how good our defense can be and how that defense can transition into offense.”
GSA’s first game of the year came at home Saturday against Lee Academy, which gave the Eagles their only loss of the season last year when it beat them 62-47 in the opener. This time, Carter’s team trailed after the first quarter but improved incrementally with each period to secure a 53-41 victory.
Reece Dannenberg led GSA in scoring against Lee Academy with 21 points, his total coming entirely via 3-pointers. A senior this year, Dannenberg is just one player who will be given a chance to thrive in a more prominent role this year.
“A lot of our role players the past few years have been really good 3-point shooters, but they just haven’t shot as much because they’ve been behind other good 3-point shooters,” Zentz said. “I think that’s going to be a problem for other teams because they’re not going to know which guy to guard.”
On Tuesday, visiting Deer Isle-Stonington experienced that dilemma firsthand in the latest battle between the two Penobscot Bay foes. Dannenberg, Tanner Ashley, Caden Mattson and Andrew Szwez combined to sink 10 3-pointers for the Eagles, who outscored the Mariners (0-1) 30-0 in the second quarter of a 75-27 win.
Mattson, who made five shots from beyond the arc for GSA, led the team with 20 points. The Eagles also got 13 points from Zentz, 12 from Szwez and 11 from Ashley in the victory.
As prolific as GSA was from 3-point range against Deer Isle-Stonington, the team’s passing, post play and defense were also on display. Combining quickness and efficient ball movement on offense and unyielding energy on defense, the Eagles sprinted out to a 55-8 lead in the third quarter before the second-stringers entered the game.
“It’s a game of runs, and we went on one that just kept on going and going,” Carter said. “Individually, everyone played very solid, and the chemistry and teamwork was there, too.”
GSA’s next game will be on the road against Ellsworth at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 14. Ellsworth lost 64-55 on the road against Orono on Saturday but improved to 1-1 Tuesday with a 61-49 road win over Old Town (0-2).
“It’s never easy against Ellsworth, and going into their place just makes it even more of a challenge,” Carter said. “They’re a well-coached team, and they always have kids who can shoot the ball really well. We’re going to have to put it all together if we want to win.”
Sumner boys beat Central, Bucksport
The Sumner boys’ basketball team won tight contests against Central and Bucksport to secure a 2-0 start to the 2018-19 season.
Sumner earned a win in its first game Saturday when it defeated Central 60-58 in Corinth. The Tigers then beat Bucksport (0-2) 49-46 at home Tuesday. Senior Colby McLean was Sumner’s top scorer in both games with 22 and 16 points, respectively.
The Tigers’ next game will be at home against Deer Isle-Stonington at 6:30 p.m Thursday, Dec. 13.