The Mount Desert Island football team took its combination of talent and chemistry all the way to the Class C North championship this fall.
The Trojans’ boys basketball squad boasts similar cohesion and hopes to achieve similar results.
The MDI basketball team is nine seniors strong, mostly veterans of a rise two years ago from the No. 12 seed to what then was known as the Eastern Maine Class B semifinals.
“Coach (Mark) Shields really does a good job of building a family type atmosphere with the football program,” said MDI boys basketball coach Justin Norwood. “Seeing that success and what it takes to be successful, how to treat your teammates, how to prepare and how to practice, not that any of that was bad with our kids last year but they’re that much better this year.
“It’s very noticeable for everyone around the program that things are different and there’s no way that football success couldn’t have had a positive impact on it.”
MDI’s 4-0 start entering Tuesday’s game at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln has featured experience, determination, talent and depth as the Trojans have won three games by at least 30 points to go with a solid 59-52 road victory at 3-1 Hermon.
Seniors Riley Swanson, Graham Good, Aaron Snurkowski and Russell Kropff and junior Andrew Phelps are among the returning players from the 2016 team that fell to Orono in the regional quarterfinals, but 13 different Trojans scored in MDI’s most recent win at John Bapst of Bangor.
“They really do not care at this moment who gets the credit,” said Norwood. “We had a kid that was returning from last year, he’s played a lot, but he didn’t play in the second half against Hermon. Guys were in the locker room changing and he came out early with another boy and helped put away chairs for the Hermon janitors and then said to me, ‘I don’t care if I didn’t play, coach, we won.’
“I was thinking when I was a junior I’d have been on one of those chairs not helping but sulking.”
One challenge facing the team before the season began was the time-honored tradition of choosing captains, but with so many upperclassmen MDI opted for a leadership council through which several veterans are selected to deal with any issues that arise on a case-by-case basis.
“So far I would tell you, as corny as it sounds, that we have 13 captains,” said Norwood. “They all really buy in and, especially the guys who have been playing since their sophomore year, they all understand the things we’re trying to do.
“Not having captains has given everyone some responsibility in having leadership.”
MDI is among this year’s favorites in Class B North, and while such championship dreams are not far from the motivational surface — particularly in light of the school’s football success — the Trojans’ quest for their program’s first regional title since 1995 is largely an unspoken pursuit.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever really talked about what our motivation is,” said Norwood.
The Trojans also understand that not every potential pitfall is within their control.
“One thing we’ve talked about was look at Caribou and Ellsworth last year, when Ellsworth had to hit two buzzer-beaters to get to the (North) final,” said Norwood. “Funky things happen in the tournament, so one thing I’m trying to tell them is to just make sure we’re not regretting our last game.
“We very rarely ever talk about wins and losses, but just play your best and then do you feel good about how the game ended or do you not feel good about it. You try to be as prepared as possible and let the chips fall where they may, and I think that attitude not only makes it really fun for the coaches but I also think the kids realize it’s a fun way to play and to be part of something special.”
EL tops in AA North
In case you missed it during the pre-Christmas rush, Edward Little moved into first place in the Class AA North boys basketball Heal points with a 76-70 victory over reigning state champion Portland last Thursday in a battle of unbeatens at Auburn.
The 5-0 Red Eddies displayed depth in their victory over the Bulldogs with two newcomers to the varsity rotation, junior Darby Shea and 6-foot-4 sophomore Wol Maiwen, playing key roles.
Shea scored a game-high 25 points — including five 3-pointers — while Maiwen had 13 of his 15 points during the fourth quarter while also sharing in the defensive load against star Portland guard Terion Moss.
Seniors Jaron Norcross Plourde, Samatar Iman and C.J. Jipson and junior Tyler Morin also were significant contributors as coach Mike Adams’ club completed a run of three straight early season wins over Portland schools.
EL scored a 62-54 win at Deering and a 71-51 homecourt victory over Cheverus before toppling Portland.
The Red Eddies are now off until a trip to Brunswick on Friday.