Hall-Dale’s KJ Greenhaugh tries to get around the defense of Winthrop’s Julia Letorneau, left, and Madison Forgue during a game Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

WINTHROP — Kelsey Ouellette and Jess Merrill knew their philosophies were a fit when they were named co-coaches of the Winthrop girls basketball team. They had similar goals and ideas, and similar methods for how to run a practice. The question was how sharing the job would go once the season began.

So far, that’s worked as well. Ouellette and Merrill have split the duties and the results have been smooth for the Ramblers, who defeated Hall-Dale 57-48 on Monday night and are now 2-1.

Maddie Perkins scored 28 points while Sage Fortin added 18 for Winthrop, and KJ Greenhalgh had 14 and KK Wills chipped in 10 for Hall-Dale (2-2).

Hall-Dale’s KK Wills charges through Winthrop’s defense during a game Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Winthrop jumped in front in the first quarter, and built the lead to 20 points before the Bulldogs narrowed the gap to seven points in a fourth-quarter push.

“If we go back and forth about ideas, it’s usually the same thing, and we make our plan (for practice) together, and it’s been the same for the games,” Ouellette said. “It’s been, knock on wood, pretty seamless. We just talk through everything, and that might be a step that other coaches don’t have to do, but they also have coaching staffs and assistant coaches. Instead of just one person making the decision, we’ve got two different viewpoints.”

The set-up is different in a sport that’s normally built around one person calling the shots. Ouellette said that she spoke with an official who said there needs to be one designated head coach for each game, so the two alternate. Last week, Ouellette was the one standing and actively instructing the team during play on the court, while Merrill was talking the team through strategy during timeouts and chatting with players on the sideline. On Monday, the roles were reversed.

Hall-Dale’s Lily Platt, left, chases the ball with Winthrop’s Lydia Rice during a game Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s nice that when one person’s doing that, the other can do more with the board and show more with the plays,” Merrill said. “I don’t think it can work, in all honesty, with a lot of coaches … but it works really well with Kelsey and I.”

No matter who is handling which responsibility, both are involved during the game. This was meant from the start to be a team effort, and that’s what it’s been.

“It doesn’t really signify who the head coach is to us,” Ouellette said. “(The players) are going to follow what both of us are saying, and we’re on the same page.”

Both coaches said they’ve rarely, if ever, disagreed during games this year, exemplifying the compatibility that prompted the two to apply for the position together in the first place. Even the division of labor during games was more a mutual decision than a hammered-out plan.

“It kind of naturally has blended together,” Merrill said.

“We never had to sit down and figure out how we’re going to talk something through,” Ouellette said. “When we’re making our practice plan for the day, we sit down and (I’ll say) ‘This is what I think we need to work on,’ Jess will say (what she thinks), and it’s usually the same thing.”

The set-up has worked for the players, who had to adjust to a new voice — or, voices — after Joe Burnham stepped down after taking the Ramblers to last year’s Class C final.

Perkins called it a “difficult transition,” but said she likes what she’s seen so far.

“It’s definitely been different, but I would say it’s a good difference,” she said. “I’ve had both of these coaches in other sports, and they’re just there for us at all times, and always bringing us up. They know what they’re talking about, and we can trust them.”

Perkins said the adjustment has gotten easier after three games.

“Our first game … we just weren’t playing as a team, I guess,” she said. “But now that we’ve had a couple more practices, it’s been a week or two … (we’re) bringing it all together.”

As for the two-coach system?

“I think me and the team have all gotten used to it,” Fortin said. “Last year during Civic Center time we had multiple coaches talking, so I think we’re all kind of used to having multiple voices. We all go with what we hear.”

They were hearing plenty of encouragement from their coaches Monday after a strong performance on both ends of the court that allowed them to command the entirety of the game. Between Perkins’ strong work under the basket and Fortin’s outside touch (three 3-pointers), the Ramblers had the Bulldogs first looking for answers, and then trying to play catch-up.

“Seeing them get a decent lead and knowing how to keep a lead, even getting (into) pressure at the end of the game and knowing how to adjust to that,” Merrill said, “it took us a little while, but I’m really proud of them for how they adjusted to the pressure and kept their composure.”

Hall-Dale got some key baskets from Lily Platt (eight points) and Wills in the fourth to cut into the margin, but coach Jarod Richmond said his team needs to play at a higher level.

“It has to start on the defensive end, I thought we left a lot to be desired on that end of the floor,” he said. “We’ve been working on it, and very clearly we have a lot more work to do down there.”

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