From the opening tip to the final buzzer, the driving force behind another strong year for boys’ basketball teams in Hancock County this year was yet another strong group of athletes who rose to face their challenges on the biggest stage.
Cutting the list of local boys’ basketball standouts to just six players on the first Ellsworth American All-Hancock County boys’ team is a remarkably difficult task. Although this group is heavy on post players, those selected proved deserving of their places after outstanding 2018-19 seasons and will be at the top of the scouting report for any team looking to progress in this year’s Northern Maine playoffs.
Tyson Gray, senior, Bucksport
A prolific scorer and dominant post presence on Buckport’s 15-4 squad last year, Gray made his senior season another solid one. The center averaged 19.1 points per game for the Golden Bucks, who cemented a spot in the Class C North playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
Gray, who also posted double figures in rebounds several times this season, stepped up for the Golden Bucks when the team needed it most in late January. His 116 points in five games between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 helped Bucksport earn five straight wins and a spot in the preliminary round after a 4-7 start to the year.
Jackson Curtis, junior, Ellsworth
Curtis, the driving force behind Ellsworth’s return to the Cross Center after a two-year hiatus, finished second in the Big East Conference in points per game this year with 18.8. He reached the 20-point mark seven straight times to start the year and was selected as Big East Player of the Week twice.
Curtis also averaged 7.8 rebounds per game, combining with his brother, Hunter, to give the Eagles a dominant duo on the boards. The elder Curtis also made strides on defense to help an Ellsworth team comprised heavily of underclassmen make up for the loss of seven seniors from the previous year.
“Jackson’s playing a lot better on defense this year, and that’s been a big help,” Ellsworth head coach Peter Austin said after Curtis scored 21 points to pace the Eagles’ 65-36 win over George Stevens Academy on Dec. 14. “He and his brother, they both score well, rebound well and play defense. Those are key parts of what any good team needs to do.”
Colby McLean, senior, Sumner
McLean reached 1,000 career points last Thursday as Sumner beat Central 76-60 on Senior Night. The Gouldsboro native’s 24-point performance in the win concluded a regular season in which he led all Hancock County scorers in points per game with an average of 20.5.
Despite missing a game and a half because of an injury, McLean surpassed the 20-point threshold nine times this season. His highest-scoring outputs came in 35-point efforts Dec. 22 against Calais and Jan. 10 against Deer Isle-Stonington.
“He’s a great kid,” Sumner head coach Dana Smith said. “To come back from getting hurt like he did and keep playing well like he has, it just shows how hard he’s willing to work.”
Caden Mattson, junior, George Stevens Academy
Mattson was only the No. 5 scorer on GSA this year, but his passing and on-ball defense were crucial to a GSA team that is looking to win its fourth straight Gold Ball in Class C. Entering the Eagles’ final two games, the junior from Blue Hill had averages of 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game as the team’s starting point guard.
“Caden plays with a lot of intensity and sets the bar really high as far as the expectations he has for himself,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “His passing is a big part of our offense, and when he’s on defense, he’s going to take the other team’s top guy and make sure he doesn’t score.”
Derek Collin, senior, Mount Desert Island
Another talented senior class led the way to another successful season in Bar Harbor, and Collin’s versatility, athleticism and experience were key factors as the Mount Desert Island clinched the No. 3 seed in Class B North. The Trenton native finished fourth in the Big East with 17.8 points per game and was the Trojans’ No. 2 rebounder through 16 contests with 8.3 per game.
Collin’s most dominant stretch of play came when the forward combined to score 92 points over three games as the Trojans earned victories against Washington Academy, John Bapst and Caribou in late December. He was named Big East Player of the Week for the second and seventh weeks of the season.
Drew Shea, senior, MDI
The Big East Conference leader in rebounds (9.1 per game through 16 games) and the MDI leader in assists (3.9 per game) and steals (1.5), Shea formed a potent duo alongside Collin in the post. He averaged 11.7 points per game and finished the regular season with seven double-doubles for the Trojans.
Shea’s best performance of the year came when he scored 22 points Dec. 27 in MDI’s 67-65 home win over Caribou. Shea’s six points in the fourth quarter included the game-winning shot as time expired to give the Trojans a vital win in the Class B North standings.