First-year Kents Hill girls basketball coach Luke Wamboldt prepared his team well this season and it paid off as the Huskies reached the tournament for the fourth time in school history.

“He was so organized,” junior center Emma Curnin said. “When the season started he was ready. He had this huge schedule of things he wanted us to do.”

Like many successful coaches, Wamboldt borrowed from someone else, in his case Kents Hill boys coach R.J. Jenkins, who he assisted for two years.

“His practices are planned out to the minute,” Wamboldt said.

As Jenkins does, Wamboldt motivated his players through positive reinforcement. They responded, finishing the regular season at 11-4 before winning a home prelim game against Hall-Dale to reach the Western Maine Class C tournament. For his efforts, Wamboldt has been chosen Kennebec Journal Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Also considered was Maranacook’s Jeannine Paradis.

Wamboldt played high school basketball at Deerfield Academy and college baseball for four years at Bates, graduating in 2011. He’s also coached baseball at Kents Hill, but this year was his first experience coaching girls.

“I grew up with two sisters, I think that helped me out,” he said. “And I had a good assistant ion Stella Leach. I found the girls were much more receptive.”

The Huskies were a mix of a few experienced players like Curnin, Sara Grenier and Ashley Doyle along with several first-timers. They’re generally at a disadvantage from most schools they play because they have no summer program and an extended Christmas break. That meant Wamboldt had to focus more on game strategy than fundamentals.

“I kind of take what I have,” he said. “We had to start putting in our systems right away and make time for individual skills.”

In Curnin’s case, Wamboldt worked with the 6-foot-2 center before and after practice in an effort to perfect her footwork.

“It really gave me the confidence I needed,” Curnin said. “He went above and beyond what I expected him to do.”

The Huskies played uptempo, which is Wamboldt’s preference, when the situation allowed, but he put most of his effort into defense, switching several times during games.

“If you can play good defense and run an effective press, you’re going to get teams in trouble,” he said.

Kents Hill beat Old Orchard for its biggest regular season win, but nothing could match the elation the post-season brought to the team and the school. The student body turned out en masse to cheer their team to a preliminary round win against Hall-Dale.

“I think it was our first home playoff game ever,” Wamboldt said. “That has to be the biggest highlight.”

It led a trip to the Augusta Civic Center where the Huskies met second-seeded Maranacook in the quarterfinals of the Class C tournament and played well in a 52-39 loss.

“Certainly the goal next year is to get back there and win a game,” Wamboldt said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ