TURNER – Edward Little still thirsts for an unbeaten regular season and possible regional and state boys’ basketball championships. Whatever the Red Eddies ultimately accomplish, they might not receive the most earnest, unconditional standing ovation of the winter in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

Leavitt likely locked up that honor Friday night. Seventy-or-so fans from the Hornets’ half of a noisy, bipartisan crowd stuck around for five minutes after the game, then roundly applauded interim coach Christian Gurney and his players as they emerged in tandem from the locker room.

It was a well-deserved gesture after Leavitt’s gallant effort in a 57-41 loss to unbeaten Edward Little, but everyone knew the cheers celebrated the Hornets’ entire body of work in a bizarre week. Leavitt (7-9) played its first game Friday since former head coach Mike Remillard’s dismissal two days earlier for an inappropriate locker room speech during a game on Jan. 23.

“There was a lot of energy in the gym and a big crowd,” said Gurney. “We definitely fed off that.”

Leavitt led 25-24 at halftime before Edward Little dropped the hammer at both ends of the floor in the third period. Five different Red Eddies scored during a 16-4 run, while Leavitt’s adrenaline rush bottomed out with a 2-for-8 effort and six turnovers in the fateful quarter.

Troy Barnies led Edward Little (16-0) with 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals. The University of Maine-bound senior had plenty of help, too.

Down low, Barnies’ brother Travis kicked in 10 points. From long range, Ben Hartnett added eight points, including a 3-pointer in each quarter after intermission. Kyle Philbrook and Eric Prue steered the offense with a combined 11 points and 10 assists.

“That’s exactly what we want,” said EL coach Mike Adams. “Ben Hartnett hit some big shots. And Eric Prue, you could see the confidence. His shot isn’t there, but it looks better. It’s close.”

The Hornets’ hot shooting from the perimeter and baseline (12-for-24 in the first half) kept the game too close for the Eddies’ comfort. Four lead changes highlighted a frantic and almost foul-free first half, the last coming on Tyler Millett’s put-back for Leavitt with 19 seconds remaining.

“We knew after all the controversy that they were going to come out strong and play hungry,” Troy Barnies said.

Millett led Leavitt with 15 points. He canned the Hornets’ first three buckets of the fourth quarter and cut the Eddies’ newfound lead to eight, 42-34, with 4:30 left. Hartnett and Troy Barnies stuck a fork in that momentum, each nailing a 3-pointer from the right wing in the waning minutes.

“After all they went through, they played great,” Adams said. “They came out believing they could beat us, and they can. People say, ‘You should be blowing people out,’ and you know, maybe, but we know every team we play is going to give us their best game. And that’s what we want.”

Doug Nash, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, scored eight of his 10 points in the first half for Leavitt.

While the Red Eddies have clinched a first-round bye in the Eastern Class A tournament, Leavitt remains on track to play a preliminary game. The Hornets finish the regular season at Mt. Ararat and then home against Oxford Hills.

“We had all we wanted tonight,” Gurney said. “We played inspired to win. They just came out in the second half and hit some shots.”

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