It wasn’t that long ago that Kayla Richards was running the point for the Presque Isle High School Wildcats and helping lead them to the first of two straight state Class B schoolgirl basketball championships.
It was 2012.
Fast forward to 2018 and Richards just completed her first season as the head basketball coach at Caribou High School, Presque Isle’s arch-rival.
The Vikings had a noteworthy four-win improvement over last season, going 8-10 to earn the eighth seed in Class B North after a 4-14 campaign in 2016-17. The Vikings wound up 13th last season and didn’t make the tournament.
Caribou won a preliminary round game this season, topping Oceanside of Rockland 53-40, before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by top seed Hermon 59-36.
Hermon led by just three at the half.
It was their first quarterfinal round appearance since 2011.
Richards was an assistant last year under Ryan Deprey and took over for him after he stepped down following a seven-year stint.
Richards, one of the youngest coaches in the state at 24 years old, said she thoroughly enjoyed her first season guiding the fortunes of the Vikings.
“I loved it,” said Richards. “It was interesting. Some days were really exciting and other days we had to keep working to get better.
“I had a great time. The kids always worked hard and that’s the biggest part,” said Richards who added that the parents and administrators were all “really supportive.”
Richards, who played basketball and soccer at the University of Maine-Fort Kent after graduating from Presque Isle High School in 2012, said she intends to try to get more kids involved in summer basketball and improve the feeder program.
She will graduate two starters in forward-guard Gabrielle Marquis and guard Searra Herbert, but returns three in junior guard Alexis Rodriguez, sophomore center Paige Espling and sophomore forward Taylor LaBreck, who suffered a badly sprained ankle in the first period of the Hermon game and didn’t return.
The 6-foot-1 Espling had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots against Hermon.
“I’m pleased with the season. Hopefully, the young kids got enough of a taste of the tournament to want to get back here,” said Richards, who is an English teacher at Caribou High.