Skowhegan basketball player Aryana Lewis passes the ball during practice Monday in Skowhegan. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

SKOWHEGAN — Like a ghost of Christmas past, Jaycee Christopher’s 2022 Maine Gatorade player of the year banner hangs in Skowhegan High’s gymnasium as a reminder of last season. 22-0. Class A champions. Gold Ball.

But that was last season. Christopher has taken her game and her accolades to the University of Maine.

Senior Callaway LePage, a star forward who was slated to return this season, scored 17 points in last season’s Class A championship game victory over Greely.

But that was also last season. LePage is out for the season with a knee injury suffered during field hockey season.

But with loss, comes opportunity, and the River Hawks embraced that opportunity in Friday night’s 58-46 season-opening win over Brewer.

No, this is not the Skowhegan team that won the Class A title, and certainly not the one that crunched the Witches 76-26 in the Class A North quarterfinal and won the season series against its Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rival, 3-0. A plucky Brewer team, with last season’s losses no doubt in mind, hung around to the very end. But Skowhegan used a balanced attack to prevail, as four River Hawks — Maddy Morris (16 points, including four 3-pointers), Allie Frey (11), Laney LeBlanc (10) and Annabelle Morris (10) — scored in double digits.


“I think we have all stepped up in a good way,” said Skowhegan guard Aryana Lewis, the lone senior on the active roster. “We just have to work harder and realize what we’ve lost, and just fill those holes by hard work and intensity.

“I think it’s big to come out in our first game and get a win like that. We have a lot of new players coming off the bench, and I think they’re excited and they work hard.”

While the win had its bumps — “We did some good things, and we did some not-so-good things,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said after Friday’s game — the players showed they could step up when the chance presented itself.

“They basically have new roles,” LeBlanc said. “(Last season), they were creating things off of what Jay did, and what Callaway did, and this year they have to develop into players by themselves and create their own roles and identities.”

And those identities started to take shape Friday:

• Frey, only a sophomore, has become the frontcourt leader if Friday was any evidence. She pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and opened the second half with a nifty reverse layup to give the River Hawks a 32-16 lead.


• Lewis pulled off a couple steals and a block in the first half, and in the third quarter, she fed a precise inside pass to Jayla Gentry, who converted the layup for her only basket of the night.

• Sharp-shooting Maddy Morris drained three 3-pointers in the first quarter as the River Hawks took an 11-8 lead after one quarter.

But there will be other stars as the season goes on.

“It’s going to take everybody and anybody, every night,” LeBlanc said. “I think it’s going to be a different person every night who makes a difference in each game.”

And, of course, there’s still progress to be made. With the game seemingly in hand, Brewer made a late push, led by 5-foot-3 guard Allie Flagg, who scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as Skowhegan’s 54-35 fourth-quarter lead dwindled to 56-46 with less than a minute left. But a missed 3-point attempt followed by a LeBlanc steal and two free throws sealed the win.

True, Brewer likely wasn’t going to come all the way back with such little time left, but a late run by the opposition showed that Skowhegan’s process toward a championship repeat won’t have a magic solution, according to LeBlanc.

“I think there’s going be an adjustment all season,” LeBlanc said. “We’re going to have a lot of games like that, where we’re going just have to wear them down, grin-’em-and-bear-e’m and see what comes out at the end.”

And if Friday was any indication, there might be plenty more grins on the players’ faces between now and the playoffs.

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