Defending state champion Eagles to take it ‘one game at a time’

The George Stevens Academy Boys Varsity Basketball Team

The George Stevens Academy Boys Varsity Basketball Team. Courtesy of Dwayne Carter

Front row, from left: Austin Snow, Reece Dannenberg, Rric mote, Tanner Ashley, Ben Cole. back row: student assistant Ethan Snow, Andrew Szwez, Taylor Schildroth, Isaac Wardwell, Max Mattson, Stefan Simmons, Percy Zentz, Caden Mattson, Coach Dwayne Carter.

Blue Hill—The George Stevens Academy varsity boys basketball team enters the 2017-18 season on familiar ground—with a state title to defend while losing a couple of key players.

But Coach Dwayne Carter remains philosophic about the changes each new season brings and the fact that the team will, once again, have a bulls-eye on its back.

“Being two time defending state champions means that every team will bring their “A” game when they play [us],” he said. “Everyone will be gunning for us.”

That said, Carter said he will go with his same strategy: “We will take it one game at a time, and one play at a time, and one practice at a time. That way we can focus and improve.”

That approach, combined with focused work on and off season, helped bring the team its recent successes.

“We have developed a culture of hard work and expectation and the athletes understand what it takes to be successful,” Carter said. And while the team will miss graduated players Beckett Slayton’s and Jarrod Chase’s skills and leadership on the court, “other players have worked hard on their shooting and defense and as a team we will fill in the gaps.”

The team showed its early-season promise in scrimmages, pushing ahead of southern Class C teams Winthrop and Hall Dale.

Seniors Max Mattson, Taylor Schildroth and Stefan Simmons return as core players, along with senior Ben Cole, juniors Percy Zentz, Isaac Wardwell and Eric Mote, and sophomores Caden Mattson and Reece Dannenberg. Newcomers are junior Tanner Ashley, sophomore Austin Snow and freshman Andrew Szwez.

Carter sees Houlton and Mattanawcook, now playing in Class C, the always-competitive Lee Academy and a Bucksport team that is not as young as it was last year as competition for the Eagles, plus “there is always that team that surprises you.”

And while the team has changed some of its strategy, he said, “we will always try and play hard-nosed defense to limit opponents’ opportunities. We expect to run the court hard on fast breaks to get easy transition points … taking advantage of our strengths offensively when we need to.”

“Every team you coach is different and finding what works best for the team is the fun part of coaching,” he added. “Building upon success with high expectations is a big part of it.”

The Eagles open the season at Lee Academy on December 9, then play at Deer Isle on December 12. Their first home game is December 15 against Class B Ellsworth.

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