Mount Desert Island’s Leah Carroll looks to pass as Olivia Gray defends during high school girls’ basketball practice Nov. 22 in Bar Harbor. With an experienced senior class returning, the MDI girls’ basketball team has high aspirations for the 2021-22 season. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Senior-powered MDI girls’ basketball dreaming big in 2021-22



BAR HARBOR — Elena Alderman and Elizabeth Jones remember where they were as freshmen three years ago.

As newcomers on the 2018-19 Mount Desert Island girls’ basketball team, Alderman and Jones were the youngest members of what would become a legendary MDI squad. Led by a senior quartet of Maddy Candage, Hannah Chamberlain, Alexis Clarito and Julia Watras, that team finished first in the Class B North standings and cut down the Cross Insurance Center nets as Northern Maine champions.

With those four players in their third seasons as major contributors for MDI, the Trojans’ Class of 2022 by and large didn’t get much playing time at the varsity level that winter. Yet with that team’s senior class taking the five-member freshman class under its wings, the 2018-19 season was a positive learning experience for Alderman, Jones, Leah Carroll, Emily Carter and Olivia Gray.

“They served as really big role models and leaders to us,” Jones said. “As freshmen, you’re always told that you have to follow in the footsteps of the people ahead of you and be just like them, and we learned a lot. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

MDI’s Mollie Gray drives toward the basket as Elizabeth Jones defends during high school girls’ basketball practice Nov. 22 in Bar Harbor. The Trojans have their entire starting five returning from last year’s team, which went 8-7 against a challenging regionalized schedule. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Three years later, Alderman, Jones and company now find themselves as MDI’s senior leaders after two seasons as the team’s primary contributors. With structure and order returning to the Maine high school basketball scene after last year’s pared-down campaign, the Trojans are dreaming big as the new season begins.

As sophomores two years ago, Alderman, Carroll and Jones moved into starting roles along with Gray, the only member of that class to have received playing time as a freshman a year earlier. Despite their youth, the Trojans finished 11-8, having been eliminated by Ellsworth on a last-second layup in the Class B North prelims.

Returning with those four, as well as Carter, as starters last year, MDI played a regionalized schedule that included unfamiliar opponents such as Class AA Bangor and Class A Brewer and Hampden Academy. Taking on those opponents toughened up the Trojans, who finished 8-7 and reached the Big East Class B semifinals.

“Class A definitely plays at a whole different pace, so I think playing them really pulled out some of our aggression,” Alderman said. “We knew last year was going to be about building, and I think we learned a lot about our team that’s going to help us get to where we want to be this year.”

This year, MDI’s starting five has gone unchanged. The Trojans have a pair of established offensive options in Carroll, who averaged 8.7 points per game last year after averaging 11.2 the year before, and Jones, who’s averaged 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game over the past two seasons.

In Alderman, who had at least one assist in every game last season and four-assist games against Hampden and John Bapst, MDI has a cerebral facilitator at point guard. Gray (6.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game the past two seasons) and Carter (double figures against Brewer and John Bapst last year) give the Trojans two more all-around threats on the floor.

“We definitely have a group of seniors this year that’s very similar to that group we had three years ago,” MDI head coach Brent Barker said. “That group had a lot of things that they wanted to prove to themselves and everybody else, and I think this group is the same way. They’ve been playing together for years, and they have huge aspirations.”

MDI’s Leah Carroll posts up against teammate Emily Carter during high school girls’ basketball practice Nov. 22 in Bar Harbor. Monday marked the first day that MDI and other high school basketball teams in Maine were eligible to begin winter practices. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Rounding out that group of seniors is Grace Witham, who recorded eight points, four rebounds and four steals against Sumner and seven points, two rebounds and two steals against Ellsworth last year. Sophomore Mollie Gray, whose 4.9 rebounds per game last year were second only to Jones’ 5.1, gives MDI another elite option off the bench.

With the exception of masking, MDI’s season is back to normal in 2021-22 after an altered schedule behind closed doors last year. With fans cheering from the bleachers, the band blasting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Superstar” as the team enters and the prospect of tournament play at the end of the line, there will be a lot more passion in Bunny Parady Gymnasium this winter.

“Our student body for fall sports this year was unbelievable, and I really hope that continues into the winter season,” Barker said. “Without that fan support and with no tournament last year, it just didn’t have the same feel to it. We thrive off that support and knowing we have that tournament to play for, and having that back is a great thing.”

MDI will be in action for the first time at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, when it takes on Bangor in a road scrimmage. The Trojans will then host Brewer in a preseason game at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, before playing road preseason contests against Gardiner at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Dec. 4, and against Narraguagus at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7.

MDI is scheduled to begin regular season play on the road against John Bapst at 7 p.m. Dec. 10. With five of their first seven games on the road, the Trojans will soon learn quite a bit about a Big East field filled with teams back at each other’s throats after a year of regionalized play.

“Ever since we were freshmen coming in here, people have expected us to do a lot,” Alderman said. “Based on how last year went, I think we’re going to do really well. … It’s a blessing to be able to play a regular season together one more time.”

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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