Forest Hills’ Haley Welch, left, is pressured by Seacoast Christian defenders Ellie Odess, center, and Bri Cliff during a Class D South semifinal game Wednesday morning at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Ellie Odess was done. Finished. Kaput.

A lingering heart condition from a bout with COVID-19 had sapped the Seacoast Christian freshman’s energy and desire a year ago, and she decided to retire from basketball.

“I was a little tired of sitting through the practices, so I went the athletic director and I said, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore. I would like to come off the team and have some free time back to so homework and all that stuff.'” Odess said.

Odess’s decision lasted all of 45 minutes before she changed her mind during class. And for that, her teammates can be thankful.

Odess, now a sophomore guard, is a key cog for the Cavaliers, who face top-seeded Valley for the Class D South title at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Third-seeded Seacoast is looking for its second straight regional title while Valley seeks its first crown since 2009. The winner advances to the state championship on March 4 at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center against either Southern Aroostook or Wisdom.

Southern Aroostook defeated Seacoast 58-18 in last year’s state title game. Also Saturday, Valley and Forest Hills will play for the Class D South boys basketball title at 2:45 p.m. The No. 2 Cavaliers (13-7) and No. 1 Forest Hills (17-3) have been on a collision course since Day 1 this season. The Tigers swept the regular season meetings, by 10 and 7 points.


The return of Odess, who netted a career-high 17 points in Wednesday’s 40-34 semifinal win over Forest Hills, has made a difference, Seacoast coach Lee Petrie said.

“She came back and said, ‘I want to play on this team,’ and she stuck around and did her thing,” Petrie said. “She came this summer, she worked on her shot, worked on her game. She took on a defensive role this year, but she’s had 15-, 16-point games. She’s just a top-notch kid and she’s the most humble kid in the world.”

What made Odess change her mind so quickly?

“I enjoy being on a team and having a team. I love team sports,” she said after Wednesday’s win at the Civic Center. “I was sitting in my class and I was thinking about (my prior decision) and I regretted it.”

Because of her medical condition, Odess barely played last season, when South Berwick-based Seacoast Christian carried a bit of an underdog reputation to last year’s D South title. Although the Guardians weren’t a low seed, they caught observers by surprise when they knocked off Rangeley and Forest Hills – two schools with a combined five Gold Balls in their trophy cases – to grab the crown.

“Last year was a Cinderella run, but Cinderella’s going to stick around a little longer, I guess,” Petrie said with a laugh.


But don’t put those glass slippers, er sneakers, away yet. Seacoast suited up only six players in Wednesday’s win, but the Guardians get most out of what they have. Odess’s 17 points in Wednesday’s 40-34 win over  No. 2 Forest Hills was one more than her previous career high, 16 two days earlier in a 51-27 quarterfinal win over North Haven. Seacoast started 2-6, but has won its last six games, including the playoffs.

“At the beginning of the year, we were all exhausted by halftime,” Odess said. “It took a lot of conditioning. As the season went on, it because easier to play the full game.”

Seacoast’s 11-9 record may be deceiving; all nine losses came to Class C schools.

Seacoast junior guard Ellie Leech had nine points and seven rebounds in Wednesday’s win; senior forward Bri Cluff had zero points but eight rebounds, mostly in the offensive zone as she gave her team extra chances to score. Senior forward Breckyn Winship was the MVP of last year’s tournament.

Top-seeded Valley (16-4), meanwhile, wields a three-headed backcourt of sisters Brielle and Madeline Hill and Kirsten Bigelow.

Valley’s strategy is simple: Force turnovers or grab rebounds in their own lane and use the fast break to create quick points. The plans has worked to perfection in easy playoff wins over Islesboro (68-19) and Vinalhaven (77-23). Madeline Hill, a sophomore, has topped 20 points on at least eight occasions this season and 30 points in three others. She also had nine steals in the quarterfinal win over Islesboro. Brielle Hill, a senior, and Bigelow, a junior, also are scoring threats, and freshman Rylee Clark is a capable rebounder.

“(We might try) maybe more outside shooting, because we probably won’t be able to steal the ball as much (in the final),” Brielle Hill said.

The Cavaliers held the top seed last year, too, but fell to Forest Hills in the semifinals. But don’t ask coach Gordon Hartwell if his team has any unfinished business.

“A lot of people want to spin it that way, but you play who’s in front of you and whoever comes out, that’s the one,” Hartwell said. “When you get in the game you’ve just go to win the game in front of you. It doesn’t matter what that jersey says. You win or you go home. I worry more about us and what we can do to step up to the moment.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story