Kori Dionne remembers her first season coaching Nokomis. She was taking over for a very successful coach in Earl Anderson, and a parent made a bet that Nokomis wouldn’t win more than three games that winter.

Now, a much safer bet would be that Nokomis wouldn’t lose more than three games in a season. Having a good run of talented players has helped, but so has having a coach who knows what to do with that talent.

Dionne does, and she led the Warriors to another outstanding season.

Nokomis won its second consecutive regional title, and Dionne is the choice as the Morning Sentinel Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Messalonskee’s Brenda Beckwith and Valley’s Gordon Hartwell.

The talent and success has combined for high expectations, but assistant coach Dan O’Connell said Dionne would aim high anyway. O’Connell and Dionne grew up in the same neighborhood, and O’Connell said she has always been competitive.

“When we were 11 years old in the park playing stickball, she was the 7-year-old girl who was allowed to play because she wanted to compete,” O’Connell said. “From a competitive standpoint, she’s always had that desire.”

This means Dionne will take losses hard — in part because of her competitive nature, and in part because of how she feels about her players.

“There’s been many times where I’ve gone to my JV coach’s house after a game and stayed up until 3 in the morning, hashing it out,” Dionne said. “I think I’m probably my own most critical judge.”

Added junior Megan Perry: “I can tell how much it means to her. When we lose, and something hurts us, it hurts her just as much.”

Perry, who also plays soccer for Dionne at Nokomis, injured her knee late in the season. She said Dionne was sympathetic and came to visit and check on her.

“When I was upset, she was upset,” Perry said.

Added O’Connell: “The biggest thing about Kori, she cares about the kids. Not just about basketball, but how they mature as people. She brings us all together.”

Along with her intensity and caring, Dionne also has a fun side she shows to the players.

“It is a very long season,” Perry said. “After a while, it starts to wear on everyone. Her letting us (have fun) really helps to take some of the stress off. She’s really good about that.”

This season, Nokomis defeated Mt. Desert Island, Presque Isle and Medomak Valley in the Eastern B playoffs before losing to Leavitt in the state final. With several players coming back, expectations will be high again.

“It is a lot of pressure,” Dionne said. “We’re a pretty big basketball community. Once you’ve had success, they expect the same thing. There’s a lot of pressure on the girls. Being a competitor, and my girls being competitors, I don’t think we’d want it any other way.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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