JAY — As the team gathered in the huddle to prepare for the final quarter Monday night, the Rolling Stones’ song “Start Me Up” began blasting from the speakers at Spruce Mountain High School.
It seemed appropriate, given the Phoenix offense had struggled much of the night, and Spruce Mountain’s lead had dwindled after a Leavitt rally in the third.
“It was very frustrating,” senior Emily Keene said. “We were doing everything we had to do defensively, but we couldn’t score.”
That changed in a hurry in the fourth. The Phoenix offense took its cue from the song and never stopped as Spruce Mountain broke away for a 64-37 win.
The Phoenix hit their first four shots of the final quarter and hit on 10 of their first 12 tries. That sparked eight straight points that was part of a 17-3 run that broke open a seven-point game.
“We finally started to make a few shots,” said Keene, who had 10 of her team-high 15 in the final quarter, including a pair of 3’s. “We were able to get steals all game long, but we just were not making anything.”
Leavitt rallied from a 30-14 deficit in the third and was within seven at 32-25 after three. The Hornets just couldn’t keep pace in the fourth and six turnovers only fueled the Phoenix fast-paced attack.
“I think their experience kind of overwhelmed us in the fourth quarter,” Leavitt coach Dave Gerrish said. “They hit some big 3s. I’m proud of the kids. They played well. We just couldn’t keep up with them in the fourth quarter.”
In addition to Keene’s points, Alex Bessey added 14. She was starting in place of Vanese Barnes, who is out with an illness. Samanatha Richards and Nicole Hamblin each had eight as nine different players scored for Spruce Mountain (3-0).
“I think we wore them out,” Spruce Mountain coach Chris Bessey said. “We played nine-deep and everybody played well. I think we had four or five sitting on the bench at halftime with two fouls each.”
Leavitt (2-2) got eight points each from Sophie Gilbert, Liz Goulette and Chantel Eells.
Down 24-14, Leavitt watched the Phoenix open the lead with a Kaile Newcomb 3 and free throws by Keene to open a 30-14 lead early in the third. Spruce Mountain would shoot 1-for-10 from the floor and only net two Richards free throws the rest of the quarter.
“We were hoping to make a run in the third quarter but then again, it came down to making shots,” said Bessey, whose team shot 5-for-18 in the first and were 3-for-14 in the second.
Leavitt ran off nine straight on baskets by Goulette, Eells and Gilbert. Then a Kassie Murch rebound made it 32-25.
The Phoenix opened the fourth with a corner jumper from Keene. Then after a Bessey steal, Keene scored on a drive and Emily Hogan scored on a turnover for a 40-25 lead. Leavitt answered with a 3 from Abigail Robertson, but Hamblin finished off nice passes from Bessey and Hogan in transition. Then Keene drilled a pair of 3’s to make it 52-30.
“Emily made some shots in the fourth,” Bessey said. “The kind of opened things up. To beat a zone, you have to hit some perimeter shots.”
Keene finished with 10 in the quarter but Hamblin added six and Bessey and Amanda Castonguay each added five.
“We knew it was a game we needed to take care of,” Keene said. “We play them twice. So it’s big Heal Points. Luckily for us, we were able to finally hit some shots and they kept turning it over.”
Leavitt was plagued by turnovers, totalling 20 in the first half. Spruce cashed in on 11 miscues in the first quarter and built a 14-10 lead. Leavitt still managed to shoot 5-for-7 from the floor in the opening quarter and stayed close.
“We had (20) turnovers in the first half and we were still staying withing eight or 10 and in striking distance,” Gerrish said.
Leavitt shot 0-for-8 in the second quarter but the Phoenix only expanded the lead to 24-14 at the half. Spruce Mountain had a number of players nursing foul trouble, and players like Castonguay, Rylee Moore, Amia Pelletier and Hanna St. Pierre did a nice job off the bench.
“We liked the tempo that we had,” Bessey said. “It was up and down. It wasn’t a halfcourt game. We forced (20) turnovers. Normally, if you force that many turnovers you’re going to have more than 24 points.”