(From left) George Stevens Academy boys’ basketball players Stefan Simmons, Taylor Schildroth, Max Mattson and Reece Dannenberg and student manager Ethan Snow share a group hug after the Eagles’ 64-59 win over Hall-Dale in the Class C championship game March 3 at the Augusta Civic Center. The state title win was the third in a row for GSA, which finished the season 21-1. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

THE YEAR IN PICTURES: GSA boys’ basketball team wins 3rd straight state title

BLUE HILL — Throughout the George Stevens Academy boys’ basketball team’s historic three-year run, the reality of what the Eagles were accomplishing had never truly set in for Dwayne Carter. After the team’s latest championship, it finally happened.

In the week following the Eagles’ 64-59 win over Hall-Dale in the Class C title game, Carter and GSA Athletic Director Larry Gray took up the task of rearranging the trophy case to accommodate the team’s newest Gold Ball. The duo had done the same each after the Eagles’ back-to-back state titles the two previous years, but this time was different.

With the game balls, nets and trophies from the Eagles’ 2016 and 2017 title wins occupying plenty of space, Carter and Gray had to do quite a bit of maneuvering to make sure their newest addition was prominent. Moving around the various pieces of hardware the team had acquired at once, the Eagles’ head coach took time to reflect on what it all meant.

GSA boys’ basketball team manager Ethan Snow (left) and player Max Mattson celebrate the Eagles’ 64-59 win over Hall-Dale in the Class C championship game March 3 at the Augusta Civic Center. With the win, GSA became just the second boys’ team in Class C history to win three consecutive state titles. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

“I think that was a moment where the whole thing just hit me as to how special the whole thing was and what we had done, really,” Carter said. “You see all these incredible things we accomplished put into context at once, and it just made me sit back for a minute and think, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool.’”

GSA’s third consecutive state title came on the backs of its heralded seniors. With the athleticism and scoring ability of Taylor Schildroth, size and rebounding of Max Mattson and team support from “glue guy” Stefan Simmons, the Eagles won 11 of the 12 regular season games on the 2018 portion of their schedule by double digits in the buildup to the state tournament.

On the Cross Insurance Center floor, the Eagles made their most dominant Class C North run yet. After beating a Houlton team Carter called “the hardest team out there” for GSA from a matchup perspective, the Eagles breezed to 23-point wins over Fort Kent and Fort Fairfield to cut down the nets as regional champions for the third year in a row.

GSA had a slightly more challenging time in the state title game, in which Southern Maine champion Hall-Dale led for part of the second quarter. Yet with clutch 3-pointers from Schildroth and strong rebounding from Mattson and Simmons, the Eagles stretched their lead from two points at halftime to 16 in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs went on a run that was too little, too late.

GSA’s Taylor Schildroth prepares to shoot as Fort Fairfield’s  Malcolm Langner defends during the first half of the Class C North boys’ basketball championship game Feb. 24 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Eagles defeated Fort Fairfield 62-39 to win the regional title for the third season in a row. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

“It’s a great way for us to go out,” Mattson said as the Eagles celebrated the win in the Augusta Civic Center after the game. “They played us tough, but we stuck with it and found a way to get it done in the end.”

The win capped off a 21-1 season for the Eagles. In finishing their final three seasons with a record of 64-2, GSA’s seniors graduated with more state championship wins than total games lost during that time span.

Winning a third straight championship also made GSA only the second Class C boys’ team and sixth boys’ team in any classification level to accomplish that feat. Not since Valley won six consecutive Class D state titles from 1998-2003 had a boys’ team won more than two straight, and no Northern Maine or Eastern Maine boys’ team had done so since Jonesport-Beals won five in a row from 1970-74.

“In our entire school history, we had a total of three [titles] before this,” said Carter, referencing the Eagles’ Class S title win in 1948 and Class C triumphs in 1979 and 2003. “To go from that to doubling it by winning three years in a row, it’s just so special. It’s hard to believe it went by so fast.”

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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