The Woodland girls basketball players and coach Arnie Clark donned pink ribbons during Saturday’s Class D state championship against Valley.
That’s because senior guard Julia Nicholas, who helped lead the Dragons to their second consecutive state championship, has a grandmother who is suffering from cancer.
“That was something that came from the team, something the team wanted to do,” said Clark.
Clark wore a pink ribbon on his sport coat during Saturday’s game while the players had them on their warmups to honor Nicholas’ grandmother, Faye.
“She’s done a great job influencing her granddaughter. We thought it’d be a [nice] tribute to her,” said Clark.
Turns out Nicholas was influenced quite well Saturday, as she led all scorers with 15 points in Woodland’s 49-35 victory over Valley of Bingham.
“She was, I think, flawless. She made the most of [her opportunities] and that’s what senior leaders do,” Clark said.
Clark added that Nicholas, one of two Woodland seniors, has been quite an influence to the throng of underclassmen.
“She’s been a leader for us for a number of years and she really kept this team together. She’s been like a mother to some of the younger kids,” said Clark.
Nicholas, along with juniors Ashley Laking and Ariel Knights, sophomores Kelsey Burtt and Molly White, and freshman Taylor Cochran, discovered their state-championship pedigree quite early in the season.
After all, some experts thought the Dragons might be a year away, but after a road win over Narraguagus of Harrington in the second game of the season, the first of eight wins against Class C competition, expectations gradually started to change.
“After we got going, after we played some Class C teams as tough as we did, expectations changed,” Clark said.
The Dragons then went on to knock off neighboring rival Calais at home on Dec. 19 while beating Washington Academy of East Machias convincingly on Jan. 14.
“These kids were very upbeat, very optimistic all year. The further we went into this, the better they got,” Clark said.
And the reward? Not just a second straight gold ball and the program’s third in four years, but a caravan once both the girls and boys teams headed back to Baileyville on Saturday.
“The kids worked awful hard, I’m just as proud of as the devil of them,” said Clark. “They wouldn’t give up, they played that way all year.”
Taking care of business
After Waterville won the Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball championship over John Bapst of Bangor, it was a relatively quiet bus ride from the Bangor Auditorium to the Elm City.
That’s because the Purple Panthers had one, make that two, things on their collective minds: A third consecutive gold ball, and a 66th straight victory.
By beating a game York team 54-42 in Portland on Friday, both those goals came to fruition for coach Ted Rioux’s team.
Even though they led by only one going into the fourth quarter, the Panthers knew their experience and poise would pay off in the end — especially that of senior center Morgan Frame, who scored 18 of her 22 points after halftime.
“You just saw the confidence that Morgan had in the fourth quarter, the look of sheer determination,” said Rioux. “You could hear [the girls] in the fourth quarter saying things on the bench, ‘we’ve got this, we’ve been here before.’ They never got fazed by the comebacks York put on them.”
That’s certainly an understatement, as Waterville pulled away with a 20-9 fourth-quarter spurt while turning the Wildcats over seven times in the first half of the period.
Those figures got the Panthers on their way, and when the final buzzer sounded, it was finally time to celebrate.
“The goal was to finish off the perfect season and third and final [state championship for the senior class],” Rioux said.
While Frame did her thing — posting 19 rebounds to go with her 22 points — role players such as sister Taylor, Jasmine Bishop and Stacie Whitten played key roles.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the bench players,” said Rioux.
As for Frame, a Miss Basketball finalist headed for Saint Anselm College next fall, she and classmates Paige Gardiner, Stephanie Whitten, Bishop and Taylor Hart will always cherish the memories of the Panthers’ historic run.
“[Frame’s] said that many times she doesn’t care about stats, she cares about winning,” Rioux said. “That made it real special for them to be able to accomplish this together.”
Maine relay teams strong
Eight of Maine’s top 400-meter runners represented the state well in the all-star high school 4×400 relay at the U.S. Indoor track and field championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston over the weekend.
The relay consisted of teams from all six New England states.
The boys finished third while girls squad placed fourth.
Gray-New Gloucester’s Ben Miklovich, Kellen MacDonald of Falmouth, Dan Roukey of Westbrook and Ben Sinclair of Brewer clocked a solid time of 3 minutes, 25.51 seconds.
Sinclair, a junior for the Witches, held off New Hampshire’s anchor man down the stretch to cement Maine’s third-place effort.
The girls’ team, made up of Biddeford’s Maria Curit, Kaitlyn D’Orazio of York, Adrian Baker of Freeport and Brunswick’s Kristen Slotnick posted a 4:03.41.