May 22, 2018
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Orono High girls basketball coach passes 100-win mark

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Orono High School head coach Jessica Witham, (kneeling in center) huddles with her Red Riots players before the start of a game two years ago. Witham has reached the 100-win mark.
By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

Orono High School girls basketball coach Jessica Witham recently reached and broke the 100-win plateau.

The former Jessica Libby,who is in her eighth season, now has 102 wins and her Red Riots are currently 5-0.

“It’s kind of a cool accomplishment,” said the 32-year-old Witham. “You can’t get there without having good teams. It’s a credit to all of the kids I’ve coached.”

Libby was a three-sport standout at Orono High before playing basketball for coach Gary Fifield at the University of Southern Maine from 1999-2003.

She assisted Fifield at USM for two seasons before coaching the Orono girls junior varsity team for a season. She then became the head coach.

“I remember talking to [Orono athletic director] Mike Archer in the hallway at school after I returned, and he asked me if I was interested in the JV position. I didn’t know if I knew enough to take on a whole team by myself. But he convinced me to start coaching and I gained confidence after a while,” said Witham who added that she “learned 90 percent of what I know about basketball from Gary Fifield.”

She said she had to change the culture and mentality of the program her first season as the varsity coach.

“We were 2-2 and we were in the locker room, and I told the girls we need to strive to be better. One of the players said to me ‘It’s OK Coach, we’re used to losing,” recalled Libby. “I said I wasn’t used to losing, and I don’t lose very well. I expect to win every time I step on the floor.”

Witham’s Red Riots have made the trip to the Bangor Auditorium for the tournament the last five seasons after missing it her first season and then being eliminated in a preliminary game her second season.

She feels she is definitely a better coach now than she was when she started.

“You have different situations that come up every season and you have to deal with them. That makes you a better coach. I think I still have a lot to learn,” said Witham, who has a 19-month-old daughter, Katelyn, with husband Ryan.

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