Has Maine ever seen a state championship game with coaches as accomplished as John Donato and Rick Clark? Each is among the winningest high school basketball coaches in Maine history. Donato has 535 while Clark has 508. On Saturday at 1 p.m., they’ll bring their 1,043 combined victories to Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena, where Donato’s Lawrence girls basketball team will go for its second straight Class A state title, taking on Clark’s York squad. Both teams are 21-0.

“We were able to see them play a couple times. We picked up a few things,” Lawrence senior Nia Irving said. “They play man-to-man defense a lot, which is something not a lot of teams did against us.”

Thirty years ago, in 1986, Donato and Clark met in the Class B girls state championship game, where Donato’s Houlton team beat Clark and York, 52-43.

“That was my first trip to Bangor as a coach,” said Clark, who will retire from coaching at season’s end. “We’ve met many times since, at coaches conferences and things like that. I consider (Donato) a friend.”

Neither team was challenged much in the regular season. York had just three games decided by 10 points or less; Lawrence had just two close games in the regular season — at one point it won four consecutive games by at least 30 points.

“They have two outstanding players and the other players play key roles. They’re a well-balanced group,” Clark said of Lawrence.

The two outstanding players Clark refers to are Lawrence seniors, forward Irving and point guard Dominique Lewis. Both are 1,000-point scorers, and Irving also has more than 1,000 career rebounds. Irving averages more than 20 points and 20 boards per game and is a Miss Maine Basketball finalist, while Lewis, averaging more than 15 points and almost seven assists per game, was a semifinalist for the award.

The Bulldogs proved they are not a two-player team, particularly in the Class A North regional tournament. Morgan Boudreau and Camryn Caldwell hit some big shots, Molly Folsom rebounded and gave the team some inside scoring, and Hunter Mercier came off the bench to score 15 points on five 3-pointers in the regional final win over rival Messalonskee. That gives Clark’s Wildcats a lot to think about on defense.

“We’ve got to take care of their biggest threats, but take care of the other players, too,” Clark said.

Defense has been a strength for Lawrence all season, allowing around 35 points per game, and it will be tested against a very good York offense.

“We’re really shutting teams down on defense right now. It’s all about playing hard on D,” Irving said.

Miss Maine Basketball finalist Shannon Todd leads the Wildcats. Forwards Chloe Smedley and Mia Briggs are also scoring threats. Briggs scored 21 points in York’s regional final win over Greely.

“They have three seniors who play well together,” Donato said. “(Smedley’s) just a strong player underneath. All three are very good inside players. They complement each other well.”

Added Clark: “The key to our success is, we have several people and all are willing to share the ball. We have to run our offense. If we’re shooting well, and we’ve shot well all season, I think it will be a heck of a game.”

York is in the state championship game for the first time since 2010, when the Wildcats won the Class B title.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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