AUGUSTA — Building a high school basketball juggernaut doesn’t happen between November and March. It happens in the summer, on quiet courts in front of few fans.

That’s the point the Southern Aroostook girls basketball team made after its 58-18 win over Seacoast Christian in the Class D state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

“It’s a huge commitment. We work all season long. Many of us go play AAU. We work hard in the summer together. We do different tournaments together. Our chemistry’s really there,” said sophomore guard Cami Shields, who scored a game-high 17 points for the Warriors.

“It’s a year-round thing for all of us,” added Southern Aroostook junior guard Madison Russell, who had six points and seven rebounds.

Playing in the state final for the fourth consecutive time (there was no tournament in 2021 because of the pandemic), Southern Aroostook won its third Gold Ball since 2018. The 40-point margin was the largest in Class D girls championship history, eclipsing Washburn’s 78-40 win over Forest Hills in 2014.

Playing in its first state championship game, Seacoast Christian finished 13-7. The loss was the Guardians’ first to a Class D team this season.

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“My biggest fear is what happened today. I think the moment kind of got to us a little bit. But when you’ve gone places you’ve never gone before, sometimes that happens. There’s no GPS for that one,” said Lee Petrie, Seacoast Christian’s coach.

Southern Aroostook scored the game’s first 43 points, and the Guardians didn’t get on the board until Breckyn Winship made a short jumper with 1:11 left in the second quarter. Although Southern Aroostook held a 43-4 lead at the half, the victory parade route was not mapped out in the locker room. The message from coach Cliff Urquhart was to stay focused on fundamentals and keep playing hard, Shields said.

“You know, the game wasn’t over. Just because you have a pretty good lead doesn’t mean the game’s over. You still have 16 minutes left to play,” Shields said.

Madison Shields added 12 points for Southern Aroostook. Ellie Leech led Seacoast Christian with 10 points.

As Seacoast Christian left the court following the game, Petrie was stopped by Forest Hills boys’ coach Anthony Amero, whose team was taking the court for warm-ups. Amero told Petrie about the first Forest Hills team he took to the state finals, which lost 83-45 to Jonesport-Beals in 2012. The Tigers came back the next season and won the title.

“He said ‘I feel like you guys are that team right now.’ I hope he’s right,” Petrie said. “If you told me Nov. 21, the day before the season started, we’d be playing the state championship game, I’d have said ‘Really?’

“Not that I didn’t think we had the talent, but it’s always a long season. With all the things that went on this year, forget the basketball. The COVID and cancellations and all that stuff. My kids got the chance to go out there and play for a state championship today against a very good team.”


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