Skowhegan Area High School's Jaycie Christopher drives around a Greely High School defender in the Maine Class A girls state championship basketball game in the Cross insurance Arena in Portland on March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Mr. and Miss Basketball awards are the highest individual honors available to Maine’s top high school seniors in that sport.

But to hear 2022 winners John Shea of Auburn’s Edward Little High School and Jaycie Christopher of Skowhegan Area High School tell it, the awards are as much a reflection of teamwork as individual play.

Christopher and Shea each put up big numbers throughout their four-year varsity careers, with Christopher leading Skowhegan Area High School to its first Class A state championship this winter while EL advanced to the 2022 Class AA North title game after winning states in 2020 during Shea’s first year as a starter.

As they were named the 35th recipients of the Miss and Mr. Basketball awards during a break in Saturday’s Maine McDonald’s All-Star Basketball Games at Husson University in Bangor, both were quick to credit those around them as pivotal to their individual growth on the court, which led each to team success.

Christopher’s most influential teammate was her father Jon, a former standout athlete in Madison who now works as the athletic administrator at Skowhegan.

“When I was in seventh grade I started working out in the morning before school,” Christopher said. “That’s really the time that I think showed me what it took to be great. Those 5:30 or 6 o’clock workouts, lifting, getting shots up in the morning, sprints, that’s where it’s done so once you get into the season you’re just ready to go.

“It’s been a lot of long hours, a lot of shots up, and my dad is definitely the leading rebounder in our school’s history. It’s pretty cool.”

Shea acknowledged the influence of two key players in recent Edward Little boys basketball history, 2007 Mr. Basketball Troy Barnies and 2019 finalist Wol Maiwen, whom the 6-foot-6 center battled during practices as a freshman with coach Mike Adams’ Red Eddies.

“I’ve had this dream ever since I was a little kid, growing up and watching people like Troy and Wol,” Shea said. “Wol was a finalist but didn’t win it, but to be able to join Troy as the second person in program history to do this is pretty special.

“My freshman year I went at Wol as hard as I could to make myself better because he’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever played against. Going against him every single day definitely made me a better player.”

Shea was named Class AA North Player of the Year after averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds per game while leading Edward Little of Auburn to an 18-3 record, the No. 1 seed in the region and a berth in this year’s regional championship game, where the Red Eddies fell to Oxford Hills of South Paris 48-47 in overtime.

“When I was a sophomore I looked up to all the seniors on that team and took everything in I possibly could,” said Shea, who averaged 18 points per game on that 2020 EL team. “They trusted me with the ball my sophomore year and that meant a lot to me.”

Christopher averaged 23.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.5 steals per contest during the 2021-22 regular season and scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds as coach Mike LeBlanc’s River Hawks defeated Greely of Cumberland Center 60-46 the Class A state final to finish their season with a 22-0 record.

But the Boston University-bound guard’s biggest contribution may have been her willingness to sacrifice even bigger personal statistics for the good of the team.

“It was never something I ever thought about,” she said. “The one thing that mattered to me was winning a gold ball, and so whatever it took to do that was what I was going to do.

“Anything else that came along the way is great, but it’s really a testament to our team.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...