BAR HARBOR, Maine — It was pegged by some as the “game of the season” in Eastern Maine Class B for quite a few reasons, and a game fans of the Mount Desert Island and Presque Isle girls basketball teams had been eagerly anticipating.
But when MDI and the Wildcats squared off on the hardwood Wednesday night, the Trojans displayed multiple traits that could poise them for a deep tournament run next month.
Coach Brent Barker’s club attacked the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 zone with flawless precision in the second half, outscoring Presque Isle 20-4 in the third quarter to break open a close game en route to a 55-36 win at a packed Parady Gymnasium.
Presque Isle, which suffered its first loss of the season, came in ranked first in the Class B Heal points and MDI was second.
“Before the game we talked about how this was like a playoff game,” said Trojans’ junior forward Megan Phelps, whose team improves to 12-1. “We knew it would be a playoff atmosphere.”
Presque Isle is now 13-1.
After being held somewhat in check in the first half with only two points and drawing double- and triple-teams every time she touched the ball, Phelps lit up the Wildcats in the second, scoring 15 of her game-high 17 points, including nine in the third quarter.
Sara Carroll’s runner off the glass at the 4:51 mark ignited a 15-0 MDI run to end the period that was capped by Jessica Swanson’s 25-foot buzzer-beater that all but secured MDI’s victory.
“Once the second half came they started to play more a 1-3-1, and that’s when we just started to go to the basket,” said Swanson, one of four MDI players in double figures (13 points).
The Trojans had some trouble adjusting to Presque Isle’s zone early, and MDI’s guards were tentative in attacking the basket. MDI led at the half 21-16.
“The first half we had a little bit of a struggle with their zone only because our guards wanted to pass the ball instead of attacking the seams,” Barker said. “At halftime we made that adjustment.”
That led to more open looks for Phelps, who also had 17 rebounds and three blocked shots. She and Swanson generated a lot of layups off of dribble penetration.
“We moved the ball around and we really tried to take advantage of the gaps in their zone, and they had to come to man-to-man after the third quarter,” said Phelps. “I think we just moved the ball well and played with confidence.”
It wasn’t just on the offensive end, as MDI’s man-to-man defense collapsed on Presque Isle inside the 3-point line, limiting the Wildcats’ open drives down the lane and forcing them to settle for perimeter shots, which played into the hands of the bigger Trojans.
“This is probably the first game we haven’t pressed at all, whether it be a zone press or man-to-man press,” Barker said. “I told them make sure to stop easy transition baskets.”
MDI also limited Presque Isle’s second-and-third chance opportunities, holding the Wildcats to three offensive rebounds.
MDI’s aggressiveness on the offensive end was also rewarded at the foul line, as the Trojans were 12-for-17 with Mackenzie Curtis, who scored 10 points, going 7-for-10. Carroll was 2-for-4 from 3-point range en route to a 10-point effort.
Kayla Richards was the lone Wildcat in double figures with 16 points.