The Edward Little girls’ basketball team had its first bid for a basket rejected decisively. When that shot was returned to sender by a Morse defender, the already boisterous Shipbuilder crowd got a little more revved up, chanting: “You’ve been swatted.”

In that instant, it was confirmed that the Red Eddies were in a challenging environment while Morse was ready to feed off its home crowd in a battle of unbeatens Friday night. The Shipbuilders rode that atmosphere early and built the lead and held off EL for a 59-47 victory.

“I think the worst thing that could happen was when Ashlee Arnold had her shot blocked right away,” said EL coach Craig Jipson. “It made us a little tentative offensively and then we just settled for 3’s.”

EL eventually went 7:49 between field goals and fell behind by as many as 14 points in the first half. A packed gym and raucous crowd at Bath Middle School made it a pretty intimidating environment for a young EL team.

“When I played in this gym it was just like this,” said Morse coach Mike Hart. “It brings back many memories. I didn’t want to key them up because they were already keyed up. So much of my pregame speech was about trying to execute. It was a matter of who was going to execute better, who’s going to take care of the basketball and who’s going to make free throws at the end. We did that. They did a good job.”

The Shipbuilders (9-0) were led by Danish exchange students Nikoline Ostergaard with 23 and Emma Block with 16. Tarra Burr added 11. EL (6-1)  got 16 from Arnold and 13 from Miranda Martin.

“It’s easier when you have the big crowd behind you,” said Burr. “You have a lot of support. I can understand for EL how hard it is to come in to a gym with the opponent’s fans.”

EL had a hard time settling in early. After tying the game 6-6 with 4:49 left in the quarter, the Red Eddies didn’t score another field goal until 3:10 in the second. With Arnold nursing two quick fouls, EL’s half-court struggled, settling for a batch of 3-pointers that rarely came close. The Red Eddies shot 3-for-15 in the first quarter and 3-for-17 in the second.

“We have not shot the 3 well all year, and we continued to take them,” said Jipson. “There was a point where I called time out twice, and we still took like eleven 3’s. We just settled for shots.”

Meanwhile, Morse began to pull away. Block broke the tie with a 3 and then Ostergaard hit a leaner to make it 12-7 after one. Burr then opened the second with a 3 and a rebound. Ostergaard followed with a three-point play and a hoop on a Burr pass during a 10-1 run.

“This is huge,” said Burr. “This is probably the biggest I’ve seen it. We all came out very amped up. We knew there was going to be a big crowd. We were all kind of nervous to begin with. Once we started to go, we were all set.”

By the time Arnold scored on a baseline move with 4:50 left in the half, EL was down 22-10. The Red Eddies cut the lead down to 27-19 by halftime. In the second half, EL continued to make a push to rally but couldn’t get over the hump. EL got within seven or eight points six times in each of the final two quarters but couldn’t get closer.

“We cut it to eight a bunch of times,” said Jipson, whose team entered the game atop the Eastern A standing with Morse ranked second. “I think if we could have just got it to six, five or four then we could have felt like we were right there. It seemed like we made a lot of trips with the ball, but we never had the big basket to cut it to six.”

EL was plagued by nine turnovers in the third and 13 in the second half. Morse did a nice job against EL’s zone, hitting enough shots from the floor and sinking free throws down the stretch to maintain the lead.

“We see a lot of defenses,” said Burr. “So we make sure we know how to execute offensively with each defense.”

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