Ellsworth’s Norman Jodrey attempts a shot as Mount Desert Island’s Steven Pierce (left) and Drew Shea defend during the first half of a high school boys’ basketball game Jan. 11 in Bar Harbor. MDI delivered what head coach Justin Norwood said was the team’s best defensive effort of the 2018-19 season to come away with a 58-38 victory over the Eagles. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Staunch defense carries MDI boys’ basketball team past Ellsworth

BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island boys’ basketball team’s first game of 2019 left a bitter taste in its mouth. Against a familiar foe, the Trojans were determined to make amends.

Seven days after a 50-48 defeat to Oceanside in Rockland, MDI finally took to the court again, this time in front of their home fans. Playing on their own floor for the first time in two weeks, the Trojans weren’t going to let the opportunity before them go to waste.

“We wanted this,” MDI senior Eli Parady said. “In that game against Oceanside, we were winning the entire first half, but we let it get away. We wanted to show up and remind ourselves and our fans we’re better than that.”

On Friday, that chance came for MDI when the Ellsworth Eagles came to town. The Trojans responded with a 58-38 victory that saw the home team fluster the visitors on the defensive end to earn bragging rights on the boys’ side in the battle of Hancock County’s largest high schools.

MDI’s Drew Shea shoots over Ellsworth’s Colin Lacasse during the first half of a high school boys’ basketball game Jan. 11 in Bar Harbor. Shea’s six points in the first quarter gave the Trojans an early lead over the Eagles. BARRY GUTRADT PHOTO

“This is probably the best we’ve looked on defense all season,” MDI head coach Justin Norwood said. “Against a team like Ellsworth that can score a lot of points, you want to set the tone and not let them dictate the game. I felt we did a pretty good job of that all game long.”

Both teams got off to hot starts with Drew Shea scoring three early baskets for MDI (7-2) and Ellsworth’s Devin Grindle and Austin Harris hitting 3-pointers. Yet the Trojans held a 14-8 lead after the first quarter of play and extended that to 30-14 at halftime with seven second-quarter points from Derek Collin.

After the break, though, freshman Hunter Curtis scored eight points to spark a monster third quarter for the Eagles (6-4), who scored 20 as a team to cut the Trojans’ lead to as few as five points. Down eight entering the fourth quarter, the game was still in reach for an Ellsworth team that was hoping to capitalize on its offensive momentum.

Instead, MDI produced a defensive masterclass in the final eight minutes, during which the Eagles scored just four points. Offensively, Parady scored eight points in the fourth quarter for the Trojans as the home team regained its double-digit lead and cruised to its fifth straight win over Ellsworth.

“After the third quarter, Coach kind of sat us down and got our heads back in the game,” Parady said. “He just said, ‘Guys, you’ve got to show how bad you want, finish strong on defense and put it away.’ That really motivated us and fired us up, and we came out on fire.”

Collin led MDI with a game-high 15 points, and Parady was the team’s No. 2 scorer with 12. The Trojans’ other scorers were Brett Duley with nine points, Shea with eight, Steven Pierce with seven, Kyle Nicholson with nine and Porter Isaacs with two.

MDI’s Eli Parady drives to the basket against Ellsworth’s Jackson Curtis during the second half of a high school boys’ basketball game Jan. 11 in Bar Harbor. Parady netted eight fourth-quarter points for the Trojans, who outscored Ellsworth 16-4 in the final frame. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Hunter Curtis scored a team-high 10 points for Ellsworth, which got nine from Jackson Curtis, seven from Austin Harris, six from Devin Grindle and three apiece from Darby Barry and Connor Crawford. Holding Jackson Curtis, the Big East Conference’s No. 2 scorer, to single digits was a major factor in MDI’s win.

“Jackson is an All-Conference player, and he has a good skill set that’s not easy to stop,” Norwood said. “We felt we would have a really good chance if we could just contain him to a certain degree and play good defense on their other scorers, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Ellsworth is scheduled to play on the road against Belfast at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, Jan. 12. The Eagles will be back in action again Tuesday, Jan. 15, when they host Old Town (2-10) at 7 p.m.

MDI is scheduled to host Orono (6-4) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. That will be the final game before the Trojans begin a four-game road stand, which will commence with games against an undefeated Hermon team at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, before tipping off at that time Jan. 21 against an Old Town squad that gave Norwood’s group all it could handle in the season opener.

“There are no nights off in this conference, and that’s especially true this time of year,” Norwood said. “Whether you’re first or 16th, you can beat anyone and lose to anyone. Everybody’s fighting for those points in the standings, and you have to be prepared every game.”

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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