Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher dribbles between her legs during the Class A state final. Christopher had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

PORTLAND — This was the fitting way for it to end.

First, it was the Skowhegan girls basketball team, gathered in a jubilant embrace on the sideline as the final seconds ticked off. Then it was the Nokomis boys team’s turn, their cheers and hugs punctuating the moment as time ran out in their victory.

It was just fitting. They were the best teams all season, the most dominant teams all season. And on the biggest stage, with history on the line for both programs, they left no doubt.

The River Hawks and Warriors now have Gold Balls, for the first time in their program’s history. And the style that got them to the championship brink was what allowed them to finish their quests as well.

The Warriors overpowered their competition all season, taking a 19-game winning streak into Saturday’s state title showdown with Falmouth. And with a 43-27 victory, they finished the season the way they played it — in command, in control, with the upper hand from start to finish.

“This was the end goal,” said freshman forward Cooper Flagg, who finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds. “I think we knew what we had to come out and do, so it was just executing the game plan and we came out and did it.”


Skowhegan won its first title with a 60-46 win over Greely. The River Hawks finished a perfect 22-0 and, after finishing the regular season with the top scoring offense and defense, capped a season-long romp through Class A with a signature performance, grabbing a double-digit lead right after halftime and never letting the Rangers sneak their way back into the game.

The victory was impressive enough that even coach Mike LeBlanc, who was dissatisfied with the River Hawks’ performance in their regional tournament victories, had few qualms after this one.

“We played extremely well,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t hold anything back when I talk to them, and I told everybody (in the regionals), we hadn’t done very well respectively to all season. We talked about, defensively, controlling that. We had to go out and get it done, and they did.”

It was a long time coming.

“It’s really the only one that really mattered to me,” Christopher said. “I have always wanted to be part of the first team that did it. My freshman year, we thought that was going to be the team that did it, and then we didn’t really know after that. To be able to do this with this group makes it even better.”

Nokomis’s victory came against a backdrop of hype and expectations that followed the team from the very first practices of the season. First, the hype centered around Flagg and his unparalleled profile as a basketball prodigy, but it sound extended to the whole team as the Warriors began to stomp their opponents during the season.


With each win, the Gold Ball pressure grew. The spotlight only intensified. The Warriors, though, never wilted.

“I’m very proud of them,” said coach Earl Anderson, whose team got eight points from Madden White and six from Ace Flagg. “They handled everything, they handled all the noise, as well as any adults could handle it. And these are young kids.”

PORTLAND, ME – MARCH 5: Skowhegan celebrates after winning the Class A state championship game against Greely. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer) Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Warriors dealt with that pressure by relying on the strength of the team. Flagg dominated the scoring, but the story of the day was Nokomis’s airtight defense, which was brilliant all season but constantly overshadowed by the Warriors’ explosive offense. It got top billing Saturday, as Nokomis slowed the pace down and ended up limiting a Falmouth offense that was averaging scores in the 70s to only 11 made field goals.

“We really win on defense,” Anderson said. “Defense travels. We didn’t make an outside shot. Madden White made one outside shot … and we still won.”

The Navigators had no clean looks. Every Warrior on the floor factored in, with Cooper and Ace Flagg seamlessly switching in the paint to prevent clear angles to the basket and Connor Sides, Alex Grant and White playing stifling on-ball defense on the perimeter.

“That was our main focus,” Grant said. “We just stay connected, talk, communicate and try to stay in front of people. … We always know where one another is, and that translates to the offensive end.”


The River Hawks leaned on their season-long strength as well. A team that just didn’t have the depth to go for Gold two seasons ago turned into a deep, balanced offense and the top scoring squad in all of Class A this season.

On Saturday, that held true again when Skowhegan needed it to. Jaycie Christopher scored 24 points, but Callaway LePage’s 17 points and work at the basket and Aryana Lewis’s 12 points showed the depth that tends to win at this time of year.

Add in a 17-4 advantage in offensive rebounds, and the River Hawks had a formula for victory that, for the 22nd straight game, wasn’t going to be matched.

Nokomis’ Ace Flagg drives to the basket under pressure from Falmouth’s Zach Morrill. Flagg finished with six points. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“We’ve told them all year, it takes everyone,” LeBlanc said. “You never know when you’re going to be pushed into the limelight.”

The contrast between Skowhegan and a Greely team that fought into the fourth quarter but needed 32 of 46 players to come from one player in Chelsea Graiver was hard to miss. While Graiver had to put the offense on her shoulders, Christopher could shoot and distribute as she saw fit. Lewis and LePage were ready she went their way.

“I knew as soon as Annabelle got hurt that everybody needed to step up,” Lewis said. “Not only me, but Callaway stepping on offensive boards and looking for outside kicks. We all played as one today, and it feels really good.”

Two teams that were the best all season showed on Saturday just what made them so tough to beat. Pretty fitting way to end the season.

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