Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher looks to get around Cony defender Sierra Prebit, top, during a Jan. 24 game in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

When the basketball season was over, Jaycie Christopher made a list. She tacked that list to her bedroom wall, in a place that ensured she’d see it every day. It’s Christopher’s to-do list. Twelve things she needed to do to become a better basketball player.

Any casual fan who watched the Skowhegan Area High School sophomore tear through the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division this past season may wonder what Christopher could possibly need to do to get better. But she knows, and she’s working on it.

“I need to get faster, quicker and more explosive,” Christopher said.

After averaging 23.7 points, 11 rebounds, and close to three steals per game, Christopher was named the KVAC A North Player of the Year. The highlight of Skowhegan’s season was an upset win over Messalonskee in the Class A North quarterfinals, a game in which Christopher scored 29 points.

Jaycie Christopher’s best is yet to come, but her right now is dominant.

For her strong season,Christopher is the Central Maine Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Skowhegan’s 2018-19 team was a senior-laden group, and Christopher, then a freshman, was usually the first player off the bench. Entering this season, Christopher knew her role would expand greatly.

“I knew, and our other coaches knew, she’s really an extension of our coaching on the floor,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “Her knowledge of what the defense was doing, she sees the whole picture when she’s on the court.”

Christopher stepped up at both ends of the court, on the perimeter or in the paint. Offensively, she made 50 3-pointers. Defensively, Christopher blocked 24 shots.Christopher felt a big improvement in her game this season came in reading screens and knowing what to do when she got the ball when coming off one.

“It had to be a quick read. Shoot, drive, or pass,” Christopher said.

Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher, left, and Emily Dunbar hug after coming out of the game with a big lead late in fourth quarter against Messalonskee in a Class A North quarterfinal game this season at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Christopher’s play forced opponents to try new things to slow her down. After Christopher went off for 40 points and 23 rebounds in an early season win over Erskine, Eagles coach Bob Witts installed a completely new matchup zone defense just hours before the rematch, an Erskine win in which the Eagles limited Christopher to 11 points and 10 boards.

“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 after his team’s win over Skowhegan.

Name a junk defense, and Skowhegan saw it this season, as opponent after opponent experimented with ways to contain Christopher.

“Zone, man, double teams. Sometimes it took a possession or two to figure it out,” Christopher said.

Added LeBlanc: “There were nights where maybe the shots weren’t falling early, and I’d say to her ‘You have to shoot the ball. It will go in.’ She kept her composure. She’s well beyond her years.”

Still one of the younger players on the Skowhegan roster, Christopher developed into a team leader.

“I’ve always tried to lead teams I’ve been on, by working hard in practice and by being a good teammate,” Christopher said. “I’ve never worried about what grade we’re in.”

Skowhegan had an up-and-down regular season with a 9-9 record. As the No. 6 seed in the regional tournament, Skowhegan was matched against No. 3 Messalonskee, a team to which it lost twice in the regular season, 46-39 and 44-41. In practices leading up to the playoff game, Christopher was confident her team had figured out how to defend Messalonskee’s flex offense.

Christopher scored six quick points to help Skowhegan take an early lead, and the team went on to a 57-40 victory.

“That’s all her getting the other kids focused. She wanted another shot at (Messalonskee). They fed off her intensity,” LeBlanc said.

Christopher credited teammates like Emmy Duffy, who scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers in that Messalonskee win, for stepping up.

“That was just one of the greatest feelings in the world. Everyone on our team contributed,” Christopher said.

Christopher hopes to play softball for Skowhegan this spring, but for now joins the rest of Maine in the game of wait and see if there’s a season. She’ll also work to improve her basketball game.

There’s a checklist on her bedroom wall, and Christopher knows reaching 12 goals will only come through hard work.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

 

 

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