Blue Hill—Powered by a strong second half defense and a 32-point game by sophomore guard Taylor Schildroth, the George Stevens Academy Eagles brought home the Class C North title on February 20 at the Cross Center in Bangor. The final score was 55-43.
The team now has a shot at the state title and, based on history, their chances are good. Each time the Eagles boys team won the regional title—in 1943, 1979 and 2003—they’ve gone on to capture the state crown.
Their most recent victory capped a week of tournament wins as the top-ranked varsity team rolled over the competition leading up to the title match.
The Eagles crushed #8 Fort Kent 73-28 in a quarterfinal match-up on February 16, and shut down #5 Schenck 68-39 on Friday, February 19.
Winning the Class C North title over the Golden Bucks proved tougher.
“This was the one we had to gut out,” Coach Dwayne Carter said. “[Bucksport] played terrific.”
Despite a 2-0 regular season record over third-ranked Bucksport—coached by Surry Elementary School teacher and athletic director Larry Deans—the Eagles started off slow.
Showing grit and determination after trailing in the first half in the Class C North title game, the George Stevens Academy Eagles took home the championship, 55-43 over Bucksport at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on February 20. Photos by Anne Berleant and Monique Labbe
Every shot seemed to bounce, roll, or teeter off the rim as Bucksport jumped to a 10-0 lead. With 2:10 left in the first quarter, Schildroth drove through the Bucks offense for a layup. This time the ball hit the backboard and dropped in, and junior Beckett Slayton quickly followed up with a three-point shot that swished through. The Eagles finished the first quarter two points behind at 12-10.
“The first quarter was a carbon copy of GSA’s [home] game,” Carter said. In that January game, Bucksport had also come out strong while the Eagles faltered, before rallying to tie at half time and win by four points.
The Eagles still struggled in the second quarter, with Bucksport maneuvering through the man-to-man defense to score. The first half ended with the Eagles lagging 21-19, despite Schildroth’s 16 points.
But the Eagles came out roaring in the third quarter, jumping to a 25-21 lead in the first 90 seconds.
What magic words did Carter tell his team before they returned to the court?
“I said defense is what’s going to win this game. [Assistant Coach Matt] Mattson got them fired up. Between the two of us we got them going,” Carter said.
The Eagles’ 18-point run in the third quarter, while thwarting the Golden Bucks at the basket, pushed the Eagles to a 38-30 lead to open the fourth quarter.
“[Schildroth] can break the defense down, which creates opportunities. We dug in deeper, mixed up the defense, and forced turnovers,” Carter said.
With 6’4” Szwez and 6’6” Mattson guarding the basket, the Eagles not so much denied Bucksport opportunities to score but to score enough to keep up.
“We knew we would have to play a near flawless game, and for the most part, we did,” Bucksport’s Coach Deans said. “The two biggest issues for us [were] scoring enough to win and Taylor [Schildroth]. Schildroth did to us what no one in my coaching career has done. We couldn’t stop him.”
“Any one of us, on any given night, can have a great night,” Schildroth said.
Szwez chipped in five points, Chase scored five, Slayton six and Mattson two, in the most uneven scoring game across the team this season.
“We got through a tough situation, in this [tournament] atmosphere,” Carter said. “These guys are great teammates and they support each other…it pays off.”
The Eagles, now at 19-1, face Waynflete for the state title on Saturday, February 27, at the Augusta Civic Center. Waynflete, ranked fourth in the South, holds an 18-2 record going into the championship game.
Schildroth, for one, is already looking ahead. “We’ll have a hard week of practice,” he said.
Tip off is 8:45 p.m., and the game will be televised live on Maine Public Broadcasting Network.