SOUTH CHINA — The first time the Erskine and Skowhegan girls basketball teams played each other this season, Skowhegan sophomore Jaycie Christopher was unstoppable.
Christopher scored 40 points and grabbed 21 rebounds to lead Skowhegan to a 63-46 win that night. When Christopher hit a 3-pointer seven seconds into Wednesday night’s regular-season finale, you wondered if the Eagles would ever figure out how to stop her.
As it turns out, they did. Erskine took a 44-26 win, holding Christopher to 11 points and 10 boards.
“Today we knew what we were up against,” Erskine sophomore guard Mackenzie Roderick said.
At 4 p.m., the Eagles (12-6) held a team meeting, in which coach Bob Witts installed a matchup zone defense. At 6:30, they put the new defense into use.
Witts worked on the matchup zone when he had time during the day, watching some tape on it.
“We tried to play (Christopher) man-to-man and she killed us because she handles the ball so good. We put two guys on her, and she still killed us,” Witts said.
This time around, in the matchup zone, the Eagles would always have a player between Christopher and the basket. If the Skowhegan (9-9) standout drove, an Erskine defender would slide over and help.
The basic strategy was simple.
“If other kids can beat us, let them beat us,” Witts said.
“We practiced it at 4, and put it on the floor,” Roderick said.
Roderick was often the player assigned to pounce into Christopher’s personal space whenever she had the ball. On Skowhegan’s first possession of the game, Roderick learned how close she had to play Christopher when she sank a long three on the game’s first shot.
“They’re going to set a screen, so I had to pop up,” Roderick said. “I can’t sink on her because she’s a great shooter.”
Skowhegan expected Erskine to try a zone of some sort.
“We were thinking a box and one a diamond and one,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said.
The way to beat a zone is knock down shots, and Skowhegan simply didn’t do that.
“We didn’t shoot well at all,” LeBlanc said. “Mama said there’d be days like this, and today was one of those days. Effort-wise, we weren’t remotely close to them.”
Erskine slowly built its lead for three quarters, 7-6 after one, 14-11 at the half, 27-19 after three, before breaking away in the fourth. As the defense wore down Skowhegan, Erskine’s offense found its groove. Joanna Linscott made three 3-pointers in the second half and was ecstatic to have a good game on her sister Jordan Linscott’s senior night.
“I think I was ready to play my game,” Joanna Linscott said. “I think my mindset was play for (Jordan).”
The game was Erskine’s third in as many days, and third win in as many days. Now the Eagles can take a breath and rest a little before the Class A North tournament opens a week from Friday at the Augusta Civic Center. The matchup zone the Eagles now have in their defensive playbook gives potential playoff opponents something new to consider.
“The kids executed it perfectly,” Witts said.

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