BANGOR, Maine — The nine seniors on the Mount Desert Island boys basketball team likely grew up playing the sport together initially believing their degree of success together would depend on how many points they scored.
Now they are celebrating in the shared understanding that they know better.
The second-ranked Trojans limited No. 4 Orono to only 11 field goals Saturday to win their first regional title in 22 years with a 42-34 victory over the Red Riots in the Class B North championship at the Cross Insurance Center.
The victory marked the third straight tournament game that coach Justin Norwood’s club held its opponent to fewer than 40 points, with a blend of persistent full-court pressure and position-based half-court defense yielding an average of just 35.6 points per postseason outing.
“We’ve been talking since about midway through the season that our full-court defense needs to be what wears people down and then we’ll finish them in the half-court,” said Norwood, who played on MDI’s freshman team the last time the program won a regional crown in 1995.
“We pressed the whole game today — we didn’t throw as many traps because on a bigger court it’s harder — but we just felt like just getting up on them and making them think about it is mentally wearing on teams. At least I hope it is. That’s the plan.”
MDI (18-3) advances to the Class B state final at Augusta next Friday night to face 16-5 Wells, which upset top-ranked Yarmouth 41-38 in Saturday’s Class B South final.
The game will mark a rematch of last fall’s Class C football state championship game won by Wells 44-0.
Orono, which lost in the regional final for the third consecutive year, ended its season at 17-4.
“We didn’t play well, we got beat,” said Orono coach Jason Coleman. “It was a bad time not to have a good game.”
Orono defeated MDI late in the regular season on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by senior guard Nate Desisto and entered the rematch with a considerable size advantage over the Trojans.
Yet MDI controlled the backboards, outrebounding the Red Riots 26-13.
“We compensated for it just by working on the little things,” said MDI senior forward Riley Swanson, who scored a game-high 12 points. “Little things like boxing out on every play, having your teammate’s back when someone’s driving to the rim, help-side defense. Little things are what compensated for their size advantage.
“And we held them to one shot a lot of times. Their height and physicality is so immense that limiting them to one shot was crucial.”
Orono took its only lead when senior forward Keenan Collett scored the game’s first basket before MDI scored the game’s next eight points, including 3-pointers by junior guard Andrew Phelps and senior forward Russell Kropff.
Orono rallied to tie the game at 14-14 on a 15-footer by Collett with 2:15 left in the first half, but a follow-up basket by Swanson and a 3-pointer by classmate Aaron Snurkowski helped MDI take a 20-17 halftime lead.
Neither team could put together an offensive run after intermission, leaving Orono with a late chance after a 3-pointer by senior forward Jackson Coutts pulled the Red Riots within 36-34 with 1:51 left in the game.
Orono then got the ball back, but a turnover led to a layup by Snurkowski that made it a two-possession game with 1:16 left. MDI added four of five free-throw attempts in the final minute.
“We turned the ball over, we let them dictate what we were trying to do,” said Coleman. “It was a one-possession game with about a minute to go and we throw the ball out of bounds, which is very uncharacteristic for us.”