Woodland High School girls basketball coach Michelle Ripley said she didn’t have a true post player in her first two seasons so she had to use “our taller guards” in the paint. That included Jennie Cox and Sadie Smith, who both stand 5-foot-8.
But this year has been different as two newcomers, 5-11 freshman Emily Curtis and 5-8 Calais High School transfer Katie Erskine have given the Dragons a productive post presence.
“I’ve been able to move kids back to their guard positions,” said Ripley.
Woodland has had a strong first half, going 8-2 and third in the Class D North Heal points after moving over from Class C.
The Dragons’ only losses have come against Class C Narraguagus of Harrington and Calais, both of which were 9-1 going into Friday’s games.
Ripley feels this is the best of her three Woodland teams. In addition to having a good inside game now, the team also has depth.
“Last year, we could go six deep. Now we can eight or nine deep,” said Ripley.
Curtis and Cox are Woodland’s leading scorers at 12 points per game and Curtis and Erskine have been the top rebounders with 10 each.
“Emily is also a good defender. She’s long and lanky. And with each game, she gains more confidence,” Ripley said.
Senior Cox is not only a quality player, she is extremely versatile.
“She was a point guard as a freshman,” said Ripley, who added that she won’t hesitate to use Cox in any role.
“I’m lucky to have someone who can do that,” said Ripley. “She improvises really well.”
Smith is one of the team’s best shooters and is one of four starters back off last year’s 12-8 team that beat Fort Fairfield in the preliminary round of the Class C North tournament before losing to Piscataquis Community of Guilford in the quarterfinals.
Cox, junior point guard Brooke Russell and senior guard Shaye Beers are the other returning starters. Russell and Beers are reliable ballhandlers, according to Ripley.
Erskine, a junior, and her freshman sister Emily, who is a good 3-point shooter, get plenty of minutes off the bench as does senior forward Shawna Monk. Monk supplies rebounding and hustle, said Ripley.
The Dragons are a little faster than a year ago so Ripley said, “we look to push the ball up the floor” when they can.
Ripley knows her players extremely well because eight are also volleyball players and she is the volleyball coach.
Her players are “hardworking kids with good attitudes,” she said.
Ripley would like the Dragons to get the ball into the post a little more, do a better job handling full-court pressure and be more patient in their half-court offense so they can set up plays.
Heal points leader Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook is 11-1 with its only loss coming to Class C unbeaten Houlton and appears to be the favorite although Deer Isle-Stonington is 12-0 and in second place.
Ripley doesn’t know much about Deer Isle-Stonington but pointed out that Woodland played Southern Aroostook twice during the preseason and lost to them by three and by one.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to see them again,” she said.