When the state Class D girls basketball championship game tips off on Saturday afternoon, March 2 at the Bangor Auditorium, a young Midcoast woman will have a keen, vested interest in how one of the two teams performs.

Molly Bishop, a 1992 Medomak Valley High School graduate, is in her seventh season coaching the Richmond girls hoop team. She also has served as the high school and middle school athletic director two years and as a science teacher the last seven years.

So, these are busy times for the former Panther.

Bishop, 36, who lives in Jefferson, realized solid high school athletic success with the Panthers in track and field, soccer and basketball, but she has experienced even greater sports achievements as a coach.

She has led the Bobcats to three straight Western Class D titles, including the most recent on Saturday, Feb. 23 with a 48-36 win over No. 1 Rangeley at the Augusta Civic Center. Richmond was ranked second and also beat in the regional playoffs No. 3 Hyde School of Bath 43-36 Feb. 21 in the semifinals and No. 7 Greenville 70-38 Feb. 18 in the quarterfinals, both in Augusta.

Bishop also surpassed 100 career coaching wins this season, notching the coveted milestone victory against visiting Kents Hill on Feb 7 in Richmond. She has a 103-37 record (.736 winning percentage) coaching high school basketball.

Ironically, the same weekend her former school plays for the state Class B boys title (Medomak Valley faces Falmouth on Friday, March 1 in Portland), Bishop hopes to guide her squad to the gold ball, something that has eluded her and the Bobcats in recent years.

Bishop's Bobcats (17-3) will battle Eastern champion Washburn (21-0) on Saturday, March 2 at 1 p.m. in Bangor for the state crown. It is the same opponent Richmond lost to in the previous two state finals, including 60-35 last year and 43-30 the year before. The Bobcats were 20-2 last year under Bishop's guidance.

The Bobcats have plenty of height, inside strength and all-around talent with Jamie Plummer, Alyssa Pearson, Bri Snedeker, Emily Leavitt, Payton Johnson, Noell Acord, Haley Murphy, Ciarra Lancaster, Morgan Harrington, Julie Plummer, Autumn Acord, Kaylah Patterson and Kelsey Anair.

Washburn has had the Bobcats' number, so to speak, in recent years and Bishop and Richmond would like nothing better than to change that this year. Especially in one of the final games being played at "The Mecca," the fabled Bangor Auditorium, which has hosted high school basketball games for decades and will soon close.

"Washburn is a quick, talented group of young athletes who are very familiar with the success of a great basketball team," Bishop said. "Our goal is to play our game by taking away the numerous transition points they usually acquire. Controlling the tempo is key and keeping our composure when [fullcourt defensive] pressure is applied. The girls know that they are the underdog … but with seven seniors, we have something to prove."

On playing the game at the Bangor Auditorium (most of the team's tourney games are at the Augusta Civic Center), Bishop said. "Really, the Bangor Auditorium is a great place if you win it all, though it's just another place to play ball. It would be incredibly sweet to take the last Class D gold ball back to the West."

Bishop, who has coached softball, track and cross country in the past at Valley of Bingham and at her alma mater of MVHS, never lacks for things to do. She is, in a word, busy. Very busy.

As a coach, teacher and activities/athletic director for two schools, she spends considerable time in Richmond.

While Bishop may be better known as a basketball coach and perhaps a teacher, it is in her duties as athletic director for two schools that keeps her hopping.

What does her job as AD involved? "Everything from scheduling, field maintenance [and] game management for both the middle school and high school activities," she said. "I have a great group of coaches who work for the school who were here long before I showed up and have made my job as AD very easy."

And are there any conflicts being the overall boss of athletics and a coach, essentially being one of her own employees? "Most of the time it works out pretty well," she said. "Gym time is at a premium when there are eight teams using the same gym. Since I'm usually waiting for practice, covering games works out well. I get to watch all levels of the program. It's the little things that catch me off guard some times, when the toilet breaks in the locker room during a girls game or the sound system doesn't work for the start of a varsity boys game just as I'm finishing my game up."

While winning is always nice, and Bishop has done plenty of that, her coaching philosophy is about much more than on-the-court success.

"Basketball is a chance for young women to learn a number of life lessons: responsibility, sportsmanship and dedication, while masked as a way to work hard and have fun," she said.

After high school, Bishop attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Co. to study anthropology and archaeology. While she played some basketball at the school, one of the main reasons she attended the school so far from her Jefferson roots was to see a different part of the country

When she has time, which is a precious commodity, Bishop enjoys hunting, fly fishing, working in the garden and spending time on the ocean.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.