TURNER — Starting strong is something the Morse girls’ basketball team has been focusing on all week.
After a loss against Camden Monday, the Shipbuilders wanted a good start in their next outing.
“Our intensity was really flat,” Morse coach Becky Roak said. “We talked a lot about coming out with a strong start. Usually, we’d get up 6-0 and then we’d let a team back in. So we really worked hard in practice with the drills that we were doing in trying to pick up that intensity and sustain that. I think they did a really nice job.”
Morse had that intensity Saturday from the start. Leavitt didn’t. The Hornets watched the Shipbuilders build a double-digit lead in the first two minutes. Though Leavitt closed the gap in the second half, the Hornets couldn’t escape the hole from the opening quarter. The Shipbuilders held off the Leavitt rally for a 48-35 win.
“They say it’s not how you start but how you finish, but in this case, it had a lot to do with how we started,” Leavitt coach Dave Gerrish said. “I think we finished well. We played hard for three quarters. We were playing against a good team. They came out and stuck it to us in the first five, six or seven minutes. We didn’t respond very well.”
Morse (4-3) scored 10 straight points to open the game and had the lead up to 20-6 after the first quarter. Leavitt turned the ball over 10 times in each of the first two quarters and started the game missing its first five shots, shooting 1-for-12 in the first quarter.
Emma Harrington led the Shipbuilders with 24 points, 16 of which came in the first quarter. She also had 11 rebounds. Signe Ostergaard scored 11 points and had four assists, eight rebounds and four steals.
“They’re kind of our 1-2 punch,” said Roak of Harrington and Ostergaard. “They’ve been our go-to players so far this season. Signe handles the ball very well and she’s able to wheel and deal. They played together this summer and work very well together.”
Leavitt (2-5) got nine points from Liz Goulette. She led the charge in the second half with all her points coming in the final two quarters. Sophie Gilbert added eight points while Allie Belaire and Chantel Eells each had seven. Eells also had 12 rebounds. It was the fourth straight loss for the Hornets, which has no seniors and start three freshmen.
Harrington scored 14 of her team’s first 16 points in the first quarter as the Shipbuilders shot 9-for-21. Leavitt had just one field goal in the quarter, a drive by Belaire with 4:42 left.
Morse built the lead to as many as 19 in the second quarter after a 10-4 run made it 29-10. Leavitt finished the half with six straight, four coming from Eells, to get the Hornets within 29-16 at the half.
In the third, Leavitt picked up the defensive play and started to get some offensive consistency going. After baskets by Leia Graves and Harrington made it 33-16, Leavitt scored 11 straight and cut the lead to 33-27. Goulette had five points during that run.
Morse finished the quarter with a 37-27 lead, but the Hornets rallied again in the fourth. Leavitt’s press forced 17 turnovers in the second half and had the Shipbuilders out of sorts.
“Their press put us in a panic,” said Roak, whose team shot just 1-for-6 to start the fourth. “We got into a little bit of foul trouble. Our main ballhandler came out at that point and they amped up the intensity. No one really wanted to control the ball. Their pressure on defense really made us fold a little bit.”
After a free throw by Gilbert, Goulette scored with 5:16 left to make it 37-30. The Hornets had numerous chances to close the gap to five but missed shots and free throws. Morse then ran off nine straight to finish it off.
“We got within seven,” Gerrish said. “To me that tells me we’re improving. If we’re getting games within seven and we’re a play away from getting closer, then we’re getting better, and hopefully we start making those plays.”
Harrington and Ostergaard each had four points in the fourth and Noa Sreden hit a jumper during that run to open the lead.
“I think that comes with a little bit of experience,” Roak said. “Those juniors had starting roles as freshmen. They’ve seen a lot of important minutes. It’s really come to light now that that playing time is in our benefit. They’re mature beyond being juniors.”
Leavitt only had four turnovers in each of the final two quarters and played with much greater intensity than the first quarter. The Hornets outscored the Shipbuilders 29-28 over the final three quarters.
“I feel good about the basketball game,” Gerrish said. “I think we played good basketball for three quarters. That’s what we’re here for — to try to get better and improve.”