Old Orchard Beach senior Elise MacNair, right, averaged 25 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists during the regular season, but she has averaged nearly 30 points in the Seagulls’ three playoff victories. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A strong start to the season for the Old Orchard Beach girls’ basketball team had taken a turn off course.

Old Orchard won 10 of its first 11 games, but then dropped back-to-back contests against Wells and North Yarmouth Academy. The newfound adversity was forming cracks. The team’s body language wasn’t good. The vocal language wasn’t good.

And Old Orchard’s veterans wanted to do something about it, calling a team meeting to pull players back in line.

“Energy is a big part of the success of teams. We wanted to incorporate that in our own team culture,” said senior guard Elise MacNair. “It’s just been no looking back ever since that talk we had.”

The Seagulls haven’t lost since, and the now eight-game winning streak has taken them to their first Class C championship game, where they’ll face Dexter at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

For Old Orchard, it’s a berth the program has been waiting for. The Seagulls have often been a contender in their region, only to run into an opponent that was a little bit better or had a little more luck on its side. Over the past 10 years, Old Orchard was seeded fifth or higher eight times, only to fall short each year.


“Even in other sports, we’ve always lost in the semifinals,” said senior forward Summer St. Louis. “We’d never been past any semifinal game.”

Until now.

“We’ve had some very good teams, and Class C South is always super competitive. You need a lot of things to go your way, and some teams didn’t get the breaks, things didn’t fall into place, and they didn’t make their own breaks as well,” Coach Dean Plante said. “This year was our turn.”

It helps to have a player like MacNair. The Miss Maine Basketball finalist and Bowdoin College commit has been a do-it-all force for the Seagulls, averaging 25 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game during the regular season.

In southern Maine, smaller schools can get overshadowed by the bigger ones. MacNair, though, has stood out from the start.

“Anybody who knows basketball has known about Elise for years, and knows that she’s one of the premier players in the state,” Plante said. “I’d argue, maybe you could say the most complete player in the state.”


She’s raised her game to help the Seagulls over the regional hump, scoring 30, 32 and then 26 points in three playoff wins.

“In the postseason, she’s just stepped it up,” St. Louis said. “She’s just taken full control. … She’s an amazing player.”

MacNair said she’s tried to pass her sense of urgency as a senior on to her younger teammates.

“We knew that we had a solid group going into this year,” she said. “I felt like it was almost my job to push it onto these girls, like ‘Hey, it may not be your last year, but I’m going to be selfish and say that it’s my last year. So let’s get to it.’ ”

That leadership revealed itself in January, when MacNair and the team captains called a players-only meeting to address, among other issues, a lack of enthusiasm, energy and cohesion.

“The first question I asked was ‘Do people know their roles on this team?'” MacNair said. “A couple of people raised their hands, and the rest were like ‘Do we have a role?’ (We said) ‘Absolutely, yes you do. Let’s break it down.’ We just kind of got to talking, and from then, I feel like everyone’s fallen into their role perfectly.”


The playoffs have borne that out. St. Louis has become a strong rebounder. Sarah Davis, at 10.1 points per game, is the secondary scorer. Tessa Ferguson and Abby Roy provide excellent perimeter and on-ball defense.

“The team wasn’t going too well at the moment, but then after that, it all came together,” said Ferguson, a sophomore. “We all ended up understanding our roles.”

It has resulted in clutch play and disciplined fundamentals that the Seagulls haven’t always shown.

“It really comes down to making that play or hitting the big shot. Even in the games down the stretch, we had kids hitting big shots when we needed it,” Plante said. “And these guys have really bought in defensively in the tournament. They’ve gotten stops when we’ve needed stops.”

There’s one more step to take.

“It definitely feels all surreal,” MacNair said. “We’re very excited to be in the position we’re in. Being one of the last 10 teams left in the state is a pretty big accomplishment in itself, but we’re definitely not satisfied with where we’re at. We’d like to finish as one of the five (champions).”

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