“We haven’t really changed very much, we pride ourselves in playing defense.”
Woodland Coach Arnie Clark
Defending a championship is never an easy task, especially with a young lineup.
That’s the chore the Woodland girls basketball team will be facing this winter.
So far, coach Arnie Clark has liked what he’s seen from his young bunch, as the reigning Class D state champions have rolled to a 3-0 start, including a 56-29 thumping of Class C contender Narraguagus of Harrington.
“We haven’t really changed very much, we pride ourselves in playing defense. We spend 75-80 percent of time in practice on defense,” said Clark.
So far, so good in that aspect, as the Dragons have surrendered 58 points combined in wins over the Knights and East Grand of Danforth.
Last season, most of Woodland’s offense went through Courtney Cochran, who is now playing at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.
This year, however, the Dragons won’t have the formidable post presence that Cochran provided.
“We have to score other ways,” Clark said.
But, what Woodland lacks in size it makes up for with pure athleticism and quickness.
Molly White and Kelsey Burtt, both sophomores who saw valuable time off the bench last winter, complement point guard and junior Ariel Knights.
White has been one of the Dragons’ leading scorers early this season, scoring 12 in the victory over Narraguagus and a team-high 20 in the victory over East Grand on Thursday.
“The White girl, she’s very quick, she’s made for basketball,” Clark said. “She’s just got a Cadillac engine, she doesn’t run down, doesn’t get tired.”
Forward Julia Nicholas is the lone senior in Clark’s starting lineup while two-year starter Ashley Laking, a junior, will seek production out of the shooting guard position.
Laking, Nicholas and Knights are Clark’s returning starters.
Christine Boomer, Kelsey Worden and Anastasia Parks will be key off the bench.
Parks, who stands 5-foot-9, will be important to Woodland’s interior game.
“She’s a good rebounder, effective under the basket,” Clark said.
As usual, the Dragons are playing a tough schedule that includes one more game with ‘Guagus and two games apiece with Calais, Washington Academy of East Machias and Lee Academy.
“When you play that competition and those kind of rivals, the kids are up for it and it’s immeasurable, the experience,” said Clark, whose team travels to Calais on Thursday.
He feels that Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook is the team to beat in Class D this winter.
“It’s a large, athletic group, that’s what [I’ve heard],” Clark said.
With a number of other contenders in Class D, such as Katahdin of Stacyville, Fort Fairfield and Washburn, the road to a second straight gold ball could be somewhat tough.
“I think it always is,” Clark said.
Since the Dragons have two sophomores, two juniors and one senior in his starting rotation and three freshmen on the roster, Clark hopes the younger players can gain experience on a nightly basis.
“Noting helps you better than experience,” he said. “We’re young, we don’t have a lot of seniors. We’ll just have to see what they can do.”