AUGUSTA — There are young teams. There are teams with talented young starters. There are even teams relying on youth to flesh out the back half of their bench.

And then there are the Seacoast Christian School and Temple Academy girls basketball teams, which are redefining what makes a team “young.”

“I feel like the team mom,” said Seacoast senior Meagan Vachon following her team’s 46-26 win over No. 5 Temple in a Class D South quarterfinal Monday at the Augusta Civic Center. “I feel like the team leader. The girls I have are amazing. They are so respectful of me, and it’s great to lead them and be their role model.”

 

Vachon is the lone senior on the fourth-seeded Seacoast Christian squad (12-6), which features only two players who aren’t either freshmen or eighth graders on the 11-player roster. Veteran head coach Charlie Johnson, in his 16th year, didn’t even have to pause to think about whether this was the youngest team he’s ever coached at the tiny school in South Berwick.

With two eighth-graders in the Guardians’ starting five, plus a freshman center, Johnson worried his team wouldn’t qualify for a repeat trip to the regional tournament after squeaking in as the No. 8 seed with four seniors last February.

Ironically, it was a win over Temple in the Dec. 7 season opener that gave Johnson reason to be optimistic this winter.

“I didn’t expect it to tell you the truth. I’d told them we probably wouldn’t win that first game,” Johnson said. “We won that, kind of like the same way we did today.

“I knew the kids coming up from eighth grade, I knew what they were like. They like playing basketball, and that’s a big thing with this group.”

“They’re all so talented,” Vachon added.

The numbers in the quarterfinal win bore that out. Sophomore Kaitlyn Jandreau led the Guardians with a game-high 17 points, 12 of those in the second half. Eighth-grader Ellie Leach scored 11, including six straight in an 8-2 run to close out the third quarter with a 31-21 lead.

Freshman Breckyn Winship scored four points, but her 14 rebounds helped give Seacoast an enormous advantage on the glass all afternoon.

Seacoast Christian wasn’t the only squad on the Civic Center floor Monday stretching the boundaries of what makes for a “young team.”

Opposite the Guardians, Temple (8-11) itself featured only one senior. Of the seven Bereans on the roster, three are eighth-graders and another is a freshman.

Temple played arguably its worst game of the year on Monday, reflected in the 20-point margin of defeat. But Bereans head coach Joe Rossignol — comforted by a post-game meal of chicken fingers and french fries — was already looking to the future.

“It’s the experience of it,” Rossignol said of Monday’s positives. “I think nerves played a lot into (the loss). Next year, everybody hopefully will be more settled here.”

Rossignol, like Johnson, never expected a regional tournament appearance. But regular season victories over Class C playoff teams Richmond and Buckfield – as well as D South semifinalist Rangeley (one of only two losses to date for the Lakers) – taught Rossignol a valuable lesson about youth.

Sometimes, young teams are too young to know any better.

“This is a beginning for Temple,” Rossignol said. “We had no business beating (any) of those teams. The girls played beyond their age to win those games. They did not know how bad they should be, and they played above that all year.”

Coaches focus on things like fundamentals throughout the three-month grind from the preseason to the tournament.

For the rare upperclassman on such young teams, the focus is on building team camaraderie — even when you’re old enough to babysit some of your teammates on Saturday nights. It can be a lonely place when you have no other classmates of your own to help guide you through the responsibilities of team leadership often falling to a group of senior captains or other multi-year starters.

“Sometimes, it puts a lot of pressure on me,” Vachon said. “We hang out all the time together. I drive them to practice in my car. We’ll sing songs. We’re a small school, so we’re always together. I eat lunch with them.

“We’re just very close.”

Comments are not available on this story.