It wasn’t surprising the Ellsworth High boys basketball team showed a few jitters during last Friday’s 66-65 overtime victory over Rockland in their Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal.
It marked the first Bangor Auditorium tournament appearance for head coach Peter Austin and his Eagles.
In that one, Ellsworth struggled at the foul line and nearly let the game slip away.
“I think the nerves, hopefully we got rid of them the first game,” Austin said.
The Eagles appeared much more comfortable in Wednesday’s semifinal round. They converted 23 of 29 free throws and had an efficient, balanced offensive performance overall.
“We have a lot of scorers. I’ll use 10-11 guys every game and I have confidence in any of them,” Austin said Wednesday.
Ellsworth was 6-12 during the 2007-08 season, improved to 12-6 a year ago before losing to Maranacook of Readfield in the preliminary round, and has taken its game to the next level this winter.
According to Austin, the Eagles will make their first regional championship game appearance since 1988 — when it won the title — in Saturday’s EM final against No. 1 Camden Hills.
“That junior class has been together since fifth grade and they’ve actually been playing together since seventh grade,” Austin said. “They’ve played a lot of games together and it shows.”
Tourney excitement revisited
It was a trip down memory lane this week for Mount View boys basketball coach Steve Caron.
He helped guide the Mustangs to a berth in the Eastern Maine Class B semifinals, where they were upended 84-65 Wednesday by Ellsworth at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I grew up in Greenville and this is always a huge honor,” Caron said.
“I played here as a kid and to come back as a coach — I was here as an assistant coach six years ago — as a head coach to bring my kids in here and be a part of one of the all-time great sports things of the state of Maine is just too much. I’m having a great time. It’s tough to lose, but we lost to a great team.”
Messer back at the Auditorium
Marty Messer was a standout player at Hampden Academy and the University of Maine-Presque Isle.
More recently, he has spent his winters coaching at Camden Hills Regional High School.
Messer, who teaches special education in Lincolnville, is in his second season as an assistant under Windjammers head coach Jeff Hart.
He spent the previous eight winters as Camden Hills’ girls JV coach, working with veteran head coach Jay Carlsen.
Messer was the Big East Conference Player of the Year in 1988, when he averaged 22.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the Broncos under coaches Ron Brown and Andy Frace.