Calais High School girls basketball coach Arnie Clark reached the 400-win plateau late last month when his Blue Devils beat Sumner of East Sullivan 73-34.
“It means I’ve been around longer than other people,” quipped Clark.
“One thing it does mean is that I’ve had some awfully good basketball players who played for me. Good players make good coaches and great players make great coaches. I must have heard that from somebody,” said the 71-year-old Clark, who is from Milltown and played basketball and baseball for Calais High and basketball at the University of Maine-Machias.
Clark is in his 31st year of coaching and he still loves it.
“Why else would anybody do it?” he posed. “I’ve had a lot of good kids I didn’t win with and a lot of good kids I did win with. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
He led the Woodland High School girls to five Class D state championships in 16 years after spending 14 years coaching the Calais boys basketball team.
His Calais boys won two Eastern Maine Class C titles.
This is his first season coaching the Calais girls.
The youthful Blue Devils went into Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Machias with a 12-5 record good for eighth place in the Class C North Heal Point standings.
Four of their five losses have come against Class B schools Houlton, the defending state champion, and Washington Academy of East Machias.
They have two noteworthy wins over current No. 5 seed Woodland and they split with defending state C champ Narraguagus of Harrington.
Clark starts two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior.
He said he is pleased with the development of his team and is hoping the Blue Devils can make a deep run in the tournament.
“When you start two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior, it’s a little bit of a shot in the dark. You never know what you’re going to get. Hopefully, things will go well early and we’ll make a run,” said Clark.
He said one of the things that hasn’t helped his team is the fact they have played a “soft schedule.
“We have five wins over teams that have a combined three wins between them,” said Clark, referring to winless Lee Academy, 1-16 Machias and 2-15 Sumner of East Sullivan.
The Blue Devils don’t have much size so they rely on their speed and pressing game to force teams into turnovers that they look to convert into easy baskets.
Sophomore forward Katie Erskine is the only prominent player who is taller than 5-foot-7. She is 5-8.
Calais starts four guards and a forward although one of those four guards, 5-6 sophomore Sydney Farrar, starts at forward. Freshmen Olivia Huckins and Lauren Cook and junior Prue Maxwell are the guards and 5-7 senior Tianna Bacon is a forward.
Clark said all five starters are capable scorers as are valuable reserves Erskine and junior Faith Tirrell.
That diversity makes it difficult for opponents to defend the Blue Devils.
Bacon is the top rebounder although Clark expects everybody to attack the boards and contribute rebounds.
He said the team doesn’t have a true point guard but noted that “they are all very capable of having assists.”
The other productive player off the bench is senior guard Katie Cavanaugh, who has returned to the lineup after suffering a knee injury.
Clark said youngsters have changed dramatically over his 31 years of coaching and they’ve changed, “for the better.
“They’re more spirited now, they’re able to express themselves more, which is good for a coach. They play with more emotion,” he said. “I tell them to play like they’ve been here before and expect to be here again.”