Seacoast Christian junior forward Breckyn Winship, left, and sophomore guard Ellie Leech celebrate after the Guardians beat Forest Hills to win the Class C South girls’ basketball championship on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

SOUTH BERWICK — A year ago, Lee Petrie became the girls’ basketball coach at tiny Seacoast Christian School, adding to his already busy duties as the Guardians boys’ basketball coach.

At the time, he said it was important to simply establish a foundation for what the girls’ program could be: “We’re so far away from thinking state championship, but we’re trying to build it up so we’re getting more out of this than just basketball.”

On Saturday, the Guardians (13-6) will be playing for the Class D state championship.

Seacoast Christian, one of the state’s smallest schools with just 110 students in grades K-12, will play Class D powerhouse Southern Aroostook at 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. The Warriors (21-0) will be playing in their fourth consecutive state final, having won championships in 2018 and 2019. Their average margin of victory this year is 40 points.

The Guardians, who play their home games at Eliot Baptist Church (and practice there three times a week) because their home court is too small, have no such history. This is the first time in the school’s 38-year history that a team has advanced to the state final.

“Amazing,” said Athletic Director Nikki Winship. “Their sportsmanship, how hard they’ve worked, the different things they’ve had to overcome, they deserve this.”


Reminded of his year-old quote the other day, Petrie laughed. Asked how they got here, he had a simple answer.

“I have great kids,” said Petrie. “Let’s be real. I mean, you don’t go anywhere without kids who are willing to buy into what you want to do.”

But there are many layers to this team. Start with the fact that the Guardians were 6-5 at one point this season and seemingly struggling. Petrie said that wasn’t so.

“You go on straight records and it didn’t look that good,” said Petrie. “But you have to know what you’re doing and you have to have your goals set and you have to be real.”

Petrie and his players knew that record was deceiving. All of the losses had come against Class C schools. In fact, the Guardians are 8-0 against Class D opponents and 5-6 against Class C opponents. Two of those Class C losses came against North Yarmouth Academy, which played in the regional final, and two were against Old Orchard Beach, which reached the semifinals.

And the Guardians learned from every one of those Class C games. In games against Class D opponents, Seacoast Christian gives up just 28.9 points a game.


“That’s the one thing about this team,” said Petrie. “They asked, ‘How do we learn from this? How do we play like that? How do we get to that level?’ ”

Sophomore guard Ellie Leech said the team learned how to dictate the pace of games from their Class C opponents. Junior forward Breckyn Winship said the Guardians learned how to play harder defense against better competition.

And with Petrie coaching both the boys’ and girls’ teams, they practice together. Yes, there are drills that they do separately – shooting drills, for example, because of the size difference in the basketballs – but they do most drills together and often play against each other.

Seacoast Christian basketball coach Lee Petrie works with players during a practice in February 2021. Petrie coaches both the girls’ and boys’ teams at the tiny South Berwick school. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Again, the girls see this as an advantage. The boys played more physically and at a faster, more intense pace.

“They’re always pressuring us in practice and we’re pressuring them, too,” said senior guard Kaitlyn Jandreau.

But it helped in other ways, too, said Petrie. The boys and girls would talk basketball all the time, he said, not just on the court but “in the lunchroom and in the classroom and on the buses.” They would watch film together and learn from each other’s games.


There are three leaders on this team: Winship (12.4 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), Jandreau (8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds) and Leech (6.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists). “They have a synergy,” said Petrie. “Something you can’t manufacture.”

“We have a lot of chemistry,” said Leech, who started as an eighth grader. “It started in junior high and has just continued.”

Petrie also held a summer camp – the first time the Guardians had ever done that. He mostly stressed fundamental skills, with a few games. “I don’t think we’d be where we are without that,” said Jandreau, noting that one player in particular, junior forward Bri Cluff, worked diligently on her inside moves.

And when Cluff displayed one of the moves in a game this season, Breckyn Winship said everyone cheered.

“These kids just love watching each other improve,” said Petrie. “They don’t care who scores the points, they just want to win.”

And now they have a chance to win the biggest trophy – the Gold Ball.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Petrie. “Let’s be real. We are. What’s crazy is they’re enjoying it. It’s not just exciting to them, but they’re enjoying it, too. I couldn’t be happier for a group of kids.”

Jandreau still isn’t sure it’s real.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “I can’t even put words to it yet. It still feels like a dream.”

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