Ella Pelletier of Oxford Hills drives to the basket against Cheverus’ Rachel Feeley during the Class AA North girls basketball title game at Cross Insurance Arena on Feb. 24. Pelletier averaged 18.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4 assists as a junior and was voted AA North co-Player of the Year, First Team and All-Defensive Team. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The challenge for Ella Pelletier in 2023-24 was to become the player that Oxford Hills needed.

She entered her junior season having already established herself as one of the state’s premier players, and already receiving interest and offers from NCAA Division I schools.

The Vikings were coming off a state championship. Three key players from that team graduated, though, including leading scorer Sierra Carson. This season, Pelletier needed to be Oxford Hills’ go-to scorer.

“This year, she had to be a little bit more selfish at times, and I think that was hard for her because, you know, it’s just not the style player she is,” longtime Vikings head coach Nate Pelletier, Ella’s dad, said. “But at times we needed her to take over games, and she was able to do that. And then the games that she was getting double-teamed and stuff, and we needed her to find the open teammates, she was able to do that as well.”

Most of her teammates also were taking on new or increased roles. A lot of players returned, but everything was different, which made Pelletier’s production even more essential.

Pelletier and the Vikings grew into their new roles, and after a rough start they finished the season on a tear and reached the program’s eighth consecutive regional final.


“I definitely think it was perseverance … from our whole team,” Ella Pelletier said. “Like, starting off losing a good amount of games, and I think we won like 13 in a row our last stretch — definitely, everyone was learning, everyone was getting better, everyone wanted to win.

“We did fall short (of a state championship), but I think just perseverance and determination with everyone on the team was awesome.”

Pelletier averaged 18.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game. She was voted Class AA North co-Player of the Year, sharing the honor with Miss Maine Basketball Maddie Fitzpatrick of Cheverus. She also was picked for the AA North First Team and the All-Defensive team.

Pelletier’s standout season and her role in Oxford Hills’ successful campaign make her the 2023-24 Sun Journal All-Region Girls Basketball Player of the Year.


Nate Pelletier said Ella “fought the system the whole year.” As in, she put a lot of focus into getting her teammates shots.


“I definitely think it was like, motivating everybody and also making sure like, yes, I’m going to get my shots, but also I want to make sure to get everyone open because once one person is getting going, everybody starts getting going,” Ella Pelletier said.

What she had to learn was that often the best way to get her teammates going was to first get going herself.

She got better throughout the season at finding the balance between unselfishly setting up her teammates and working more for her own points, which would make setting up her teammates easier.

Oxford Hills’ Ella Pelletier smiles as she prepares to drain a free throw in overtime of the Vikings’ AA North semifinal victory over Bangor at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Feb 21. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

She ended up not only leading the team in scoring, but also in assists.

“Ella, like I said, stepped up when she needed to,” Nate Pelletier said. “And the cool thing about it, she’s such a great teammate and she loves seeing her teammates succeed. (We) joke that I think sometimes she’d rather be on the bench cheering on her teammates.”

Pelletier and the Vikings opened the season strong. Pelletier took over the season opener, scoring 32 points in a 59-42 victory in the first regular season game in Edward Little’s new gym.


“She just sort of took over the game in the second half when we needed her to,” Nate Pelletier said.

But the first part of their schedule was formidable, and the in-flux Vikings started the season 2-5.

The second-to-last of those five losses was at Cheverus, which had dominated Oxford Hills 76-47 in the second game of the season. In the teams’ second meeting, Oxford Hills stayed with the Stags and even led by a point in the final minute before falling 58-54.

“I definitely think our turning point was the game at Cheverus,” Ella Pelletier said. “And I know we lost a (game) after that, but we finally realized like, we’re good enough to keep up with these teams, and we just need to keep working, keep pushing ourselves in practice and stuff.”

The Vikings finished the regular season with 11 straight victories, which moved them up to the No. 2 seed in the AA North tournament.

They extended their winning streak to 13 before falling to Cheverus in the AA North final.


That the Vikings persevered through a difficult start and turned their season around made this year special.

“The change from the beginning — we were two-and-five and then we didn’t lose a game until the (regional final), which I think is, like, that’s insane,” Ella Pelletier said. “Just showing how our team, we finally clicked, we finally understand it, and we finally were just like, ‘OK, we all want to win. Like, this is a team effort.’ I think just like praising the team, everybody was working hard. It was just amazing.”


Ella, who is 5-foot-11, switched positions this season to point guard after playing mostly as a wing who spent a lot of time in the post.

It wasn’t a completely new position. When she was young, Ella played mostly with and against older players, and since she was usually shorter, she often played point guard. She also plays the position a lot in AAU.

But it was still a change.


Her dad said one of the areas Ella grew the most was recognizing the matchups she faced and the best ways to exploit them: if guarded by a smaller player, she needed to go into the post; against taller players, she should move to the perimeter to either shoot or drive past the defender.

“She started really recognizing those things,” Nate Pelletier said. “And then being vocal about it. Like when she has the matchup she wants, you know, calling for the basketball, and then her teammates got good at getting her the basketball.”

Just like Ella is able to score against smaller or taller players, she also can defend both. And being voted AA North All-Defense shows that she can defend both well.

But her defense also needed to change this year because, Nate Pelletier said, “She needed to be on the floor.”

“The biggest thing for me was I couldn’t foul,” Ella Pelletier said. “My past high school years, I’ve been pretty foul-happy. So that was the biggest thing, I couldn’t foul.”

Nate Pelletier said Ella still has a lot of room for growth, especially when it comes to knowing when and how to take over games. But, he said, most players don’t truly grasp it until their senior year — he cites Carson and Fitzpatrick as two examples of that — and he anticipates Ella will, too.


“It’s tough for me to recognize that she’s just a junior and she’s still got a-whole-nother year,” Nate Pelletier said. “So that that growth is going to happen. And you never know — I’m not really sure what she could produce next year if she keeps putting the effort in.

“But she had a great year this year. I was super, super pleased.”

Ella said she plans on working on improving outside shooting and ball-handling before next season.

Nate Pelletier said she’ll also decide probably decide by then where she’ll play college basketball. Among the schools that have offered her scholarships are the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Bryant and Stonehill.

“She’s got some amazing opportunities that she can choose from, they’re all great places,” Nate Pelletier said. “And you know, in the end of the day, she needs to do what’s best for her. And as parents, we just need to just support her.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: