AUGUSTA — Jaycie Christopher had a hunch things were going to go the Skowhegan girls basketball team’s way. Then the sophomore guard made sure her intuition proved correct.

Christopher scored 29 points, leading sixth-seeded Skowhegan over No. 3 Messalonskee 57-40 in the quarterfinals of the Class A North girls basketball tournament at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday afternoon. Skowhegan will face No. 2 Gardiner in the semifinals on Wednesday.

The victory came after Messalonskee (13-6) defeated Skowhegan (10-9) in both regular-season games. But Christopher had seen for herself last season, when Skowhegan beat Hampden twice but lost in the regional final, just how hard it is to win that third matchup.

“I had a feeling all week,” said Christopher, who added five rebounds and three steals. “Last year we had our situation with Hampden, where it’s tough to beat a team three times. So we came into this game knowing we were the underdog. We’ve never really been in this situation before, so it was kind of fun to come in and just have the underdog feel.”

And Skowhegan flourished with it, though it was far from a one-player endeavor. Emma Duffy hit four 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Callaway LePage scored nine and added seven rebounds, and Jordan Boone led an inside defensive effort that prevented Messalonskee from maintaining a rhythm.

“I was very pleased, especially with our seniors. They really set the tone, I think, defensively,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “Emma coming in and shooting the ball like that was very rewarding for us, and took some pressure off Jay. Jay’s just Jay, she’s going to score no matter what. But it’s nice to have other people contribute, and not just in the scoring department.”

Messalonskee was led by Gabrielle Wener with 18 points and seven rebounds, and coach Keith Derosby said the Eagles could never shake the slow start.

“All credit to Skowhegan,” he said. “They were aggressive, they got after everything, and once they pulled away every time we made a run, they made a run to match it.”

Skowhegan jumped out of the gates, taking an 8-2 lead behind six quick Christopher points, then a 15-7 advantage into the second quarter. Messalonskee narrowed the gap to 20-16 with 2:57 left on a pair of free throws from Wener, who had all 12 of the Eagles’ points for the quarter, but Skowhegan regained momentum with a 9-3 run to end the half.

The Eagles tried to battle back again when Bri Benecke’s 3-pointer made it 31-26 with 4:06 left in the third, but Skowhegan answered with seven straight points. The lead was pushed to 41-36 by the end of the quarter, and a 3-pointer by Duffy and jumper from Hailey Paquet further crippled the Eagles’ hopes.

“We had a 10-point lead, and so we knew coming out after halftime we couldn’t give that up. We knew we had to shut them down defensively,” Duffy said. “It feels so good. Coming into this season we had a lot of new faces, we lost a lot of seniors last year, we had to find new starters, so we really had to come together and work as a team.”

An 8-2 run to start the third quarter provided the dagger, but Skowhegan laid the foundation for the upset from the start. Christopher’s defense on Wener contained the 1,000-point scorer, Skowhegan was excellent from the free-throw line (hitting its first 12 and going 22-of-25 for the game) and the interior defense gave the Eagles few easy baskets.

“Jordan Boone played extremely well (and) got after it, which we’ve been talking about the extra effort,” LeBlanc said. “She set the tone defensively for us.”

Derosby said the game was a disappointing finish for his team, which included six seniors.

“They’re a close bunch of kids, I have six seniors that have played together since second grade,” he said. “You never want to go out on a game like that, but when you’re a competitor, you have to accept that’s part of the game.”

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.