Jaycie Christopher had dreamed of this day ever since she started playing basketball, and on Saturday the senior guard and the rest of the Skowhegan girls basketball team got to live the dream.
Christopher scored a game-high 24 points and junior forward Callaway LePage came off the injured list with 17 points as Skowhegan captured the first Class A state championship in program history with a 60-46 victory over Greely of Cumberland Center at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena.
“It means everything just to be able to do this with the community behind us and for each other,” said Christopher, who will continue her basketball career next season at Boston University. “This is something all of us have always wanted. so to be able to come out here and do this together is really special. It’s something we’ll remember for a long time.”
Coach Mike LeBlanc’s club capped off an undefeated 22-0 season with a game they never never trailed in after the late stages of the first quarter.
Christopher also had eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots for Skowhegan, while LePage also grabbed eight rebounds as the River Hawks capitalized on second chances at the offensive end to build their lead.
“We knew we needed to crash the boards and give it all we’ve got,” LePage said. “Getting the second opportunities and the third and fourth shots, that was what was going to put us ahead, that and boxing out so they couldn’t get second shots.”
LePage’s availability wasn’t at all certain after she suffered a sprained ankle during practice on Wednesday, but her inside work as a complement to Christopher proved pivotal.
“I knew I was going to try to play, but I didn’t know how much I was going to play,” she said. ”I just tried to forget about it and play, and live in the moment.”
Skowhegan also got a big game off the bench from junior forward Aryana Lewis, who stepped in and contributed 12 points after starter Annabelle Morris suffered an ankle injury late in the opening quarter.
“She knows when to step up and she does that role very nicely,” LePage said.
Skowhegan had to withstand a determined effort from Greely senior Chelsea Graiver, who led all scorers with 32 points — including 23 of the Rangers’ 25 points after intermission.
“She’s a really good player,” Christopher said. “She made shots, but at the end of the day we knew she was a good player and it was all about just limiting them as a group.”
No one else scored more than five points for Greely, which ended its season with a 16-5 record.
Christopher scored 13 points and LePage added seven as Skowhegan moved out to a 30-21 halftime advantage.
The game’s first six minutes featured one lead change and three ties before a Lewis drive gave the River Hawks an 11-9 edge.
A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Graiver kept Greely within 18-15, but Maddie Morris opened the second quarter with a three for Skowhegan and the River Hawks later followed two free throws by Greely’s Kayla Delisle with nine unanswered points to take their largest lead of the half at 30-19 on a mid-range jumper by Christopher with 57 seconds remaining.
Christopher had started that run with a 3-pointer from the left of the key, and she later fed Allie Frey for a fast-break layup.
Graiver led Greely with nine first-half points, all during the first quarter.
Graiver, who will continue her athletic career at Division II Stonehill, did all she could to keep the Rangers in the game after intermission, scoring all 11 of her team’s third-quarter points and later a 3-pointer with 4:34 left in the game to pull her team within 48-40.
But that was as close as the Rangers got, as Christopher and LePage combined for Skowhegan’s final 12 points.
“Once we started the playoffs we decided we wanted to try to make history and so we were able to do that,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, but I’m just happy for the girls for putting in so much effort all year, even for the last two years.”