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Local Sports

February 20, 2013

Ray's the bar

DAVENPORT _ There stood Ray Preston, microphone in hand near. That's where he asked anyone who’d ever played for him to join him at mid-court.

Out they came from both sides of the bleachers, women of various sizes and ages _ a couple dozen at least _ who had donned maroon Davenport uniforms during Preston’s 34 seasons as coach, along with the current roster.

“This is all about everyone who has ever played for me,” Preston said shortly after his team’s 50-39 Section Four Class D first-round victory Tuesday over Stamford that left him with a state-record 620 girls basketball victories.

Preston’s record improved to 620-164, a mark that averages out to slightly more than 18 victories per season. Though he tried to downplay breaking the tie with retired Red Hook coach John Kuhn as the state’s winningest girls basketball coach, others around him did not.

“It was pretty nerve-racking,” said Wildcats junior Sarah Haight, who scored 14 points to share team-high scoring honors with Jenna Lutz. “We knew how big of a deal it was. We’re really excited because we all wanted this for him.”

Added Stamford coach Lonnie Nickerson: “It’s pretty preposterous. Ray will be the first one to tell you it’s longevity, but it’s not. His teams work at it; he works at it. His teams are organized, they’re structured, they run a very disciplined offense out there and my hat’s off to him.”

Preston, 64, spent 35 years as a business teacher at Davenport, retiring seven years ago. He said it’s the teaching aspect of coaching that keeps him energized.

“The biggest thing is I enjoy the kids,” said Preston, whose 16-3 team built a 17-point lead in the third quarter that the Indians whittled to four in the fourth quarter before the rally stalled. “I enjoy practice. I really do. Everyone comes to the games, but I really enjoy the practices because you’re teaching. I taught for 35 years, so this is kind of my fix on teaching. The big thing is to watch the kids progress.

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