Skowhegan celebrates after beating Greely to win the Class A girls basketball state championship game Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

At the start of the girls basketball season, Skowhegan senior Jaycie Christopher was sidelined with a pulled groin, and lamenting the fact that she couldn’t be on the court with her teammates.

It was while resting, however, that Christopher noticed just how good those teammates had become.

“I had a lot of time to kind of sit around and watch,” she said. “Just watching the development in that short time, and seeing kids step up, that’s kind of when I knew. If we got better every day, we could be a team that did something special.”

Last Saturday, they did, becoming the first Skowhegan girls basketball team to win a state championship with a 60-46 victory over Greely in the Class A final. The River Hawks did it by stifling the Rangers, taking command early and never relinquishing it, and only a 32-point effort by Chelsea Graiver kept Greely in the game into the fourth quarter.

Christopher scored 24 points, Callaway LePage had 17 and Aryana Lewis had 12. It was an impressive win, one that Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc acknowledged got only more impressive given a chance to watch it again.

“We did some very good things,” he said. “Watching it, I thought we played better than what I thought on Saturday. We just missed too many shots early and too many uncontested shots, and our foul shooting was atrocious. If we take care of that end of the business, it’s not even a game.”


It ended a recent trend of coming close and falling short for the program. Skowhegan was the second seed in A North in 2017, but lost in the regional semifinals to Nokomis. The River Hawks were the second seed again the following season, but lost in the semifinals again to Messalonskee. In 2019, Skowhegan went undefeated in the regular season, only to be denied a state title bid by Hampden in the regional final.

Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher twirls the net in celebration after her team won the Class A state championship game against Greely. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

This season, however, the River Hawks were peerless.

“I was talking to (former assistant coach) Bethany Sevey … (who) told us after we lost my freshman year in the regional final about how she lost in three straight regional finals,” Christopher said. “We were just talking about how hopefully this is the first of many to come. Hopefully, we broke the ice.”

LeBlanc said he knew his team could go all the way when it beat Hampden 59-38 on Feb. 1.

“The turning point was probably the Hampden game, when we held them to 12 points in the first half,” he said. “I basically told them after the game that if they defend like that, with that intensity level, then we could do something really special.”

Finishing the title quest required some toughness — both physical and mental. The physical component came when LePage, a key part of Skowhegan’s operation in the post, rolled her ankle during a Wednesday practice.


Immediately, the ankle began to swell, and LePage’s practice reps were over.

Skowhegan’s Aryana Lewis tries to drive past Greely’s Kylie Crocker. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Her ankle had a tennis ball growing out of it Wednesday night,” LeBlanc said. “We did not allow her on the court. When she came to practice, she was 20-minute ice baths, three times.

“I asked Tyler (Cates), our trainer, is there any way we can get her running up and down the court a little bit Saturday before we leave, so we’d have a better idea of what we were going to have when we got there? He said ‘Absolutely not. The only time she’s going to run is after I tape her and she gets on the court for warm-ups.'”

When LeBlanc provided his list of starters for the game, he did so with a warning that LePage could be a scratch. But as the game started, the junior forward let him know she wasn’t leaving.

“(Cates) told me she’d be able to play until she told me she couldn’t anymore,” LeBlanc said. “And she told me, flat out, she wasn’t coming out of the game.”

The River Hawks weren’t done with ankle trouble, as starter Annabelle Morris went down with a sprain with 1:43 left. Despite losing a key player, Skowhegan kept clicking, with Lewis stepping up to deliver some key baskets for the team.


“I knew as soon as Annabelle got hurt that everyone needed to step up, not only me,” Lewis said. “We all just played as one today.”

Skowhegan’s Reese Danforth takes control of a rebound. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

That ability to take an injury like Morris’ in stride and not take a hit reflected that depth and progress that Christopher had seen at the start of the season, and reinforced a point that LeBlanc had made often throughout the season.

“We talked about how everybody has to step up, everybody’s got to be ready to go,” LeBlanc said. “It might only be a minute. But you’ve got to be ready to go when you go in the game. When I put Jayla (Gentry) in early, I thought she did some good things. … And then Aryana just stepped it up a whole different level.”

“All season, we preached how it takes everyone,” Christopher said. “You can’t just rely on a couple of kids. You need everybody. … All season, we talked about pushing each other in practice to make each other better. I think that helped us become a deeper team throughout the season.”

And a tight-knit one as well.

“The biggest thing I’m going to take from this year is how they jelled into a team,” LeBlanc said. “They got along so well, and that’s a credit to (seniors) Reese (Danforth) and Jaycie both. They pulled them along, they showed them what happened in years past, and Jaycie and Reese (took) those kids and pulled everyone in together.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.