ELLSWORTH — Ellsworth High School is experiencing a pretty strong run in schoolboy sports these days.
Last winter the Eagles reached the Eastern Maine Class B championship game in basketball, and this fall many of those same student-athletes helped propel Ellsworth to the regional title in soccer — and the run may not be over yet.
Coach Peter Austin’s boys basketball team greeted fans at its home opener Friday night with an impressive combination of pressure defense and transition offense to surge past Class C George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill 74-35 at Katsiaficas Gymnasium.
“Defensively I can’t be happier,” said Austin, whose team limited GSA to 23 percent (13 of 56) shooting from the field and forced 25 turnovers. “As long as we play defense like that we should be fine. In practice I’ve been drilling them about defensive pressure, and I think it’s been sinking in for the last two games. Overall, defensively we’re right where we want to be right now, and hopefully it will continue.”
George Stevens had opened its season with two victories against Class C competition, but on this night was no match for their Hancock County rivals.
“We knew what they were going to do, we’re just not quite ready for it yet,” said GSA coach Dwayne Carter. “Their transition game is as good as I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching. You get back and take one thing away, and the trailers are there. We have worked on it, and I thought we did a little better in the second half, but they’re very good at finishing.”
Senior guard Cote Card led 3-0 Ellsworth offensively with 16 points, including the first eight points of the game on two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. Senior forward Andrew Austin, the coach’s son, added 15 points to go with a game-high 11 rebounds and four steals.
“I think we’re playing pretty well,” said Andrew Austin. “We definitely have a lot of chemistry on the team, which helps a lot. I’m sure there’s room for improvement, but we’re playing well right now.”
Jordan Carter scored nine points for Ellsworth, while Tyler Palmer scored eight and Nick Holt added seven points and five assists.
Senior guard Nick Kane led GSA with nine points and four steals.
Ellsworth used its defensive quickness and fullcourt pressure to force 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone. Andrew Austin followed Card’s early outburst with a three-point play from transition as the Eagles scored the game’s first 11 points before GSA’s Nick Doolittle made a baseline jumper three minutes into the contest.
Card had 10 points in the opening period while Austin had seven as Ellsworth built a 24-5 lead thanks to another 10-0 run late in the period that included layups by Nick Richie, Thomas Sawyer, Austin and Carter along with two free throws by Card.
“We definitely pressed a lot, which helped,” said Andrew Austin. “We got quite a few steals and we were able to convert. I think our strengths are passing and our quickness and our ability to read the ball.”
George Stevens was within 28-15 midway through the second quarter after a jumper by Doolittle and a free throw by Nick Dillon, but Ellsworth put the game away by scoring the final 15 points of the half.
Austin began the run with a steal and a layup and another layup off an inbounding pass by Holt. Carter added two layups around a pair of free throws by Card, and Holt then hit a 3-pointer before Ben Curtis closed out the run with a basket off an inbounding pass by Carter.
Ellsworth shot 54 percent (16 of 30) in the first half, with 19 of those points coming on fast breaks.
“We want to run,” said coach Austin. “We want to get up and down the floor. We have some good athletes here right now.”