After beating Yarmouth last Friday, York High’s girls’ basketball team improved to 13-0. The Wildcats are beating their opponents by an average of 34.2 points.

Yet, as scary as this may seem, they’re not anywhere near where they want to be. As the defending Class B state champions continue to stretch their winning streak — it now sits at 35 — they continue to work on getting better.

“We set goals for each game, things that we have to work on,” said Rick Clark, in his 29th season as head coach of the Wildcats. “We know we have to get better to maintain our edge. The kids have done a good job with that.

“They never talk about the streak, they just focus on each game. Even if it’s a team we smoked the first time, we know we have to get better. Every game, we want to feel, when it’s done, that we’re better than we were when we came in.”

It’s not always easy. Because of their dominance, many of the York starters play little more than half the game. That may hinder the individual statistics, but Clark believes it will make the Wildcats a better team when the games get tougher.

“When the starters are sitting down, it’s a little frustrating,” he said. “But we did that last year and what happened was we got into the state game and we needed the bench and they came through. There’s nothing wrong with that part of it as long as you can keep your starters fresh and in game shape.”

And York has some talented starters, beginning with senior center Nicole Taylor, who’s heading to the University of Vermont, and senior guard Stephanie Gallagher, who will play at the University of Southern Maine. Since their arrival four years ago as freshmen, York’s record is 72-5 — with four of those losses coming in their first season, when York was beaten in the regional semifinals.

This year the 6-foot tall Taylor is averaging 16.4 points and 9.5 rebounds in 21 minutes. Gallagher is averaging 14.4 points, 4.2 assists and 4.5 steals in 25 minutes a game.

They, along with fellow captain Chelsea Morley, a dangerous outside shooter, made their goals very clear to the other players at the start of the preseason.

“They know we’re looking for back-to-back state championships,” said Taylor. “It’s everyone’s goal. We’re not going beyond our reach with that as a goal, we’re just asking them to commit to it, we’re asking them to play their hearts out.

“We want to get back to it. They know that. They knew walking in that we had the potential to do it.”

Taylor and Gallagher admit that it is sometimes frustrating when they have to sit, when the Wildcats have to pull back. “We do that all the time,” said Clark. “I’ll take the press off after two minutes, after four minutes, certainly in the first quarter a lot.”

But they are able to keep their edge in practices. Clark calls them brutal sometimes, with players bouncing off each other in physical contests.

“In practice,” said Gallagher, “Mr. Clark will always say, ‘Don’t let down. This is our time.’ We practice what we need to work on, our plays, our defense. And our second team does a great job of pushing us.”

Clark feels this year’s team is deeper and stronger. The players have bought into a weight-training regimen and they push each other daily.

“Basketball is a team sport,” said Taylor. “And we need our bench players to be good. When it comes to the tournament, the team that’s going to win is the team with the most depth.”

And the team that plays the best defense, an area in which every Clark-coached team has excelled. York is giving up an average of 26.5 points a game, so even on nights when the Wildcats struggle offensively — as in last Tuesday at Wells, when they missed 22 shots in the first half — they can maintain the lead.

“Some nights they’re going to shoot the lights out and maybe bury you,” said Wells Coach Don Abbott, whose Warriors lost by 41 points to York earlier in the season. “Other nights, maybe not so much.

“But they are able to create things, unlike any other team in our league, off their defense. So that when their shots aren’t falling, they’re still able to get that nine-point run when you look up and you blink and (the deficit) goes from seven to 16 really quickly.”

As the season progresses, everyone is beginning to talk about a York-Leavitt showdown.

The Hornets of Turner are also undefeated, and they are putting up hellacious offensive numbers, averaging 79.8 points a game. They are winning games by an average of 38.6 points.

“Yeah, we’re keeping an eye on Leavitt,” said Taylor. “But we’re keeping an eye on everyone.”

“We’re just trying to get better,” said Clark. “These kids know that everyone is undefeated when that tournament starts.

“We’ve been there enough to know that.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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