BLUE HILL — They’re at it again.
Winning games is hardly a surprise for the George Stevens Academy boys’ basketball team, which entered the year looking to continue a remarkable run that’s included three state titles, 15 tournament wins, 83 overall victories and just six losses over the previous four years. Even as years change and players come and go, the Eagles always seem to put forth a winning team.
After the 2018-19 season, the GSA boys were looking at perhaps a bit more uncertainly than usual with six seniors from the Eagles’ Northern Maine runner-up team set to graduate. With Andrew Szwez, GSA’s top scorer and rebounder a year ago, transferring to Bangor High School over the summer, the Eagles were set to have one returning starter, senior Caden Mattson, and a very young bench.
“We lost a lot of players,” GSA head coach Dwayne Carter said. “We had one starter back in Caden, and some of the other kids we have had played minutes last year — some, but not a ton.”
None of that has mattered this year for GSA, which is once again a championship-caliber team with the tournament just a month away. A squad that might have had questions of inexperience entering the season is instead in-sync and firing on all cylinders as it tears through Class C North.
With seven games remaining, GSA is 11-0 and has its sights set on another deep run in the postseason. Eight of the Eagles’ 11 wins have come by 20 points or more, and only one team, Deer Isle-Stonington, has come within single digits.
“It’s been trial by fire because we’re all are kind of new to it besides me, but we’ve really figured it out,” Mattson said. “We’re really close, and it’s a team effort whether we’re on the court or off the court.”
In Mattson and Milos Sujica, the Eagles have two top-notch defenders and 3-point shooters; in David Gadsby, they have one of the region’s quickest players and a consistent scorer; in Michael Moon, Teague Smallidge and Austin Snow, they have another set of capable shooters who can provide more options if opponents key in on Gadsby, Mattson or both.
On any given night, any of those six players can provide the bulk of the scoring for the Eagles. In one game, GSA’s 83-41 win at Bucksport on Dec. 17, all six players finished in double figures.
How, exactly, can opponents even defend against GSA’s array of threats?
“You’re going to have to ask them; I’m not even sure,” Gadsby said. “We’re very confident in each other, so if somebody is playing good defense on one of us, we know we have a brotherhood of guys who can take over the game.”
This GSA team, Carter believes, differs from past squads in that it lacks the superstar power the Eagles’ Gold Ball-winning units from 2016-18 had. Yet that has allowed GSA to throw a few more wrinkles into its game plans, and the team’s communication has turned that into positive results.
“We look for each other more than any of the other teams I’ve coached recently because we know we don’t have that superstar that we’ve had in the past,” Carter said. “We’re so unselfish, and we just pass to the open guy and pass and cut. Everybody is just as happy to make the passes as they are to score the points.”
That concept was on display Friday night as 10 different players scored in GSA’s 69-37 win over Bucksport. Mattson (19 points) and Gadsby (17 points) led the way offensively for the Eagles, whose effort at the other end of the floor paved the way for a blowout win over a Bucksport team it led 45-10 at halftime.
“We rebounded really well, and all of us played really good help-side D,” Mattson said. “It was just a total team effort from everybody.”
GSA, which beat Sumner (2-8) 70-44 on Monday and will play on the road against Lee Academy (1-7) on Wednesday, Jan. 15, will host Searsport Friday, Jan. 17. The Eagles will then host Calais on Monday, Jan. 20. All three games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tip-offs.
This season has been an interesting one in the Class C North ranks with the top three teams, Central Aroostook, Dexter and GSA, not scheduled to face one another at any point in the regular season. Elsewhere, reigning regional champion Houlton won’t be in the field this year after moving up to Class B.
For Carter, though, there is no use in fretting about whom his team might or might not play; the Eagles are focused on playing their game, and if the results from both this season and years past are to be believed that strategy should suit this group just fine.
“When you get to the tournament, you look for tendencies in teams, but you need to do what you do best,” Carter said. “We’re going to work and make some adjustments if we need to, but we’re confident in what we do, and I think we’ll be fine if we keep doing that.”