Following a dominant 12-0 start, the final third of the regular season has been much more of a challenge for Mount Desert Island Trojans.
Heavy favorites to finish atop the Class B North rankings with a team returning all five starters from last year, MDI was brilliant and looked untouchable through mid-January. Hermon played them tough, losing by seven points in the first meeting and 10 in the second, but no other opponent got closer than 17 points.
Beginning with a five-point win over Central at home Jan. 20, MDI has been vulnerable. The team suffered its first loss a week later at Presque Isle and on Jan. 31 lost again, this time at home on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Orono’s Nate Desisto.
“If we don’t do the little things in games like block out and take good shots, we are beatable,” MDI coach Justin Norwood said. “There are a lot of good teams in the division and you can’t ever take a night off.”
MDI will continue to count on its senior-laden roster, balanced offense (four players average at least 8 ppg), outstanding depth and relentless fullcourt pressure defense as it guns for its first regional title since 1995. Despite the late-season struggles, the Trojans are still considered the team to beat.
“They are good at every position, are the deepest team in the league, and they press you for 32 minutes and try to wear you down,” said Presque Isle coach Terry Cummings.
Keenan Marseille, a junior guard for the Hermon Hawks, concurred.
“They have been playing together for many years and their confidence in each other is horrific to play against,” Marseille said. “Their intensity on defense rattles they teams they play against.”
In contrast to MDI, the Hawks are probably the youngest team in Class B, but will be a threat due to their disciplined style, implemented by veteran coach Mark Reed, and gritty defense. They have surrendered more than 60 points in a game only once and give up an average of 44 ppg.
“We are a long, athletic team and we use that to our advantage,” Marseille said. “Defensively our goal is to back up our teammates. That is [coach Reed’s] number one goal he has preached throughout the season.”
Marseille, one of the top guards in the league, averages 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3 assists. Isaac Varney has had an outstanding freshman campaign, averaging 13.6 ppg and 7.8 rebounds per game.
“They are very well balanced and work well together, so they will be a tough out,” Cummings said.
Presque Isle won only three games last season, but have bounced back behind a solid inside-outside attack. The Wildcats had been lurking all season before making a huge jump with the upset over MDI.
“I think our guys knew they could compete at this level, but that win really boosted their confidence,” Cummings said.
Bradley Kinney, a 6-4 senior forward, is among the top rebounders in the Big East Conference at nearly 10 per game and leads the Wildcats in scoring with 15 ppg. Junior point guard Griffin Guerrette has had a fine season, averaging 13.6 ppg.
Orono is a veteran unit that has reached the regional finals each of the past two seasons and coach Jason Coleman has his squad primed for another run. Desisto (20.7 ppg, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) is considered one of the best guards in Class B and leads the Red Riots, while Connor Robertson (12 ppg), Keenan Collett (10 ppg), Jake Kofmann (9 ppg, 8.5 rebounds) and Jackson Coutts round out the balanced attack.
“We have started to defend for all 32 minutes,” Coleman said. “Earlier in the year, we were a little complacent and would pick when we played hard and not do it consistently throughout the game.”
Central, behind Caleb Shaw, is another strong Big East team with an impressive resume and is a feared opponent thanks to its length, athleticism and senior leadership. Winslow, representing the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, had a solid regular season and could challenge.