Like most teams, Mount Desert Island sits down prior to the season to set goals.
This season, when it was suggested the Trojans try to “go undefeated and win a state championship,” one of the seniors protested.
“Our goals ended up being: Have fun, play hard and never be satisfied,” said coach Justin Norwood, whose undefeated squad (18-0) is the No. 1 seed for this year’s Eastern Maine Class B boys basketball tournament.
Riding the experience of four returning starters, the Trojans are gearing up for Saturday’s 3 p.m. quarterfinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
MDI, which joins Falmouth as the only unbeaten boys teams int he state, awaits No. 8 Camden Hills (12-7), which beat No. 9 Washington Academy of East Machias in the preliminary round.
The Trojans have earned the label as the team to beat, an honor that for several years rested with Camden Hills, the three-time defending regional champion. MDI relies heavily on senior tri-captains Nick Shaw, Caleb MacDonald and Jayson Burke, along with juniors Ben Walls and Adam Gray.
MDI has been among the best defensive ballclubs in the region, allowing only 46.3 points per game. The Trojans held opponents to 40 points or less six times and didn’t give up more than 59 in any game.
However, after losing in the preliminary round last year, MDI isn’t looking too far ahead.
“We just worry about the next thing on our schedule: The next practice, the next game, the next drill,” Norwood said.
Being unbeaten and No. 1 means nothing if the Trojans don’t maintain the same approach that has brought them this far.
“[Being] 18-0 doesn’t mean anything. It’s now in the past,” Norwood said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep getting better and focus on the task at hand.”
There are plenty of high-caliber teams in Class B that are equally motivated and appear to have enough talent to make a run at the title.
They include second-seed Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (16-2) and No. 3 Gardiner (16-2) out of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, both of which also received first-round postseason byes.
However, No. 4 Ellsworth (14-5) and No. 5 Presque Isle (14-5) of the Big East, along with No. 6 Nokomis of Newport (14-5), and Camden Hills of the KVAC, are among six remaining teams with at least 14 victories.
MDI is 10-0 against postseason qualifiers, having beaten Ellsworth, Presque Isle, Washington Academy, Caribou and Hermon twice apiece.
Coach Nick DePatsy has Medomak Valley back in Bangor for the fifth straight year. This time, the Panthers are KVAC champs.
“The tournament, it’s a new season,” he said. “Foul trouble, anything, can change a game. We’ve got to be focused and ready to play every night or we’re going to be in trouble.”
The Panthers, who lost to Winslow in the 2011 quarterfinals, have plenty of tourney experience. The veteran nucleus includes senior twins Isaac Greenrose and Alex Greenrose and 6-foot-7 junior center John Murray, all of whom are three-year starters, along with senior Shane Osier, who missed the tourney in 2011 with an injury.
The Panthers await the winner of the prelim matching Winslow and Oceanside.
Medomak Valley owns two wins over Oceanside of Rockland and one each against Gardiner, Nokomis, Winslow, Camden Hills and Waterville. The Panthers gave up 51 ppg and scored 70 points or more eight times.
Gardiner, which lost to Medomak 61-57 in the KVAC title game, is a formidable squad. The Tigers beat Western Maine No. 5 Leavitt of Turner (14-4) twice and held opponents to 46.7 ppg.
“They know how to win,” DePatsy said. “They don’t give up. They’re just tough kids.”
Ellsworth is among three teams at 13-5. Coach Peter Austin’s Eagles play host to Hermon on Wednesday.
Ellsworth, which advanced to the EM final last season, is paced by seniors Thomas Sawyer, Nick Holt and Kyle Haslam. The Eagles allowed only 47.6 ppg.
First-year coach Terry Cummings has Presque Isle in the postseason. The Wildcats, who entertain archrival Caribou on Wednesday, look to Tyler Brooks, Matt Eager and Andrew Kofstad to lead the way.
Nokomis, which lost to Ellsworth in last year’s quarterfinals, returns to the postseason with a solid nucleus. Coach Carl Parker’s Warriors, who host Waterville on Wednesday, are paced by seniors Ethan Pearl and Ruel Libby along with junior Spencer Hartsgrove and sophomore Andrew Cartwright.