Woodland High School girls basketball coach Michelle (Ferry) Ripley and husband Carl welcomed their first child, daughter Sophia, into the world on Saturday in Calais.
Ripley had already handed the coaching reins over to assistant coach Michealene Spencer and Spencer will continue to coach the team until Ripley returns for the Class C North tournament.
The Dragons faced Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook on Tuesday night and had games remaining against Calais at home on Friday and at Shead of Eastport on Tuesday.
“We just got home (Monday). She sleeps all day and is awake all night. We need to fix that,” quipped Ferry whose 7-pound, 8-ounce daughter arrived a week early.
Ripley is comfortable with Spencer at the helm and said they communicate regularly.
“We text all the time, after every practice and every game,” said Ripley. “My dad, Bob Ferry, goes to all the games and calls me after every quarter with updates.”
The Dragons, who went 8-10 a year ago and lost to Piscataquis Community High School of Guilford in the C North preliminary round, have been one of the surprise teams this season as they took an 11-4 record into the game against Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook.
They had been the top seed at one point but were the second seed behind Southern Aroostook entering Tuesday’s game.
“I never thought we’d end up in first place at any point this season,” admitted Ripley.
Southern Aroostook coach Cliff Urquhart said one of the keys to Woodland’s success is their rebounding.
“They rebound well. They get after it,” said Urquhart.
“Michealene and I scream ‘box out’ every trip down the floor,” said Ripley. “We really try to preach that to the kids. They have their jobs to do and, for a couple of them, their job is to rebound and they have done it consistently well.
“When we beat Narraguagus in the first game of the season (51-50), it was because we rebounded. The girls finally realized that if they rebound, they’ll get more chances to shoot,” said Ripley.
One of their top rebounders is 5-foot-7 junior forward Jennie Cox.
“She spent her whole life as a point guard but she’s one of our bigger girls so she is more of a post player for us now,” said Ripley.
Cox and 5-7 junior center Lauren Monk have been their top rebounders, averaging around 10 apiece according to Ripley, and Cox is the leading scorer at 15 points per game. Sophomore guard Sadie Smith is the second leading scorer at 10-12 points each.
Sophomore Brooke Russell has been an important addition at guard after playing only a couple of games a year ago due to a torn anterior cruciate (knee) ligament.
“She is quite a spitfire,” said Ripley.
And junior Shaye Beers has been vastly improved as the point guard according to Ripley.
“She sees the floor really well,” said Ripley.
Ripley said the team’s goal this season is to finish in the top eight “to at least play at home in the preliminary round but now we might not have to play a prelim game (by finishing in the top four) and that would be fantastic.”