BATH — Through 32 minutes of girls’ high school Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference basketball Friday, Morse and Leavitt combined for just 21 field goals.

Blame can certainly be passed around. From the Shipbuilders and Hornets trying to figure things out in their first game of the campaign, to both defenses playing in your face basketball, this one was a defensive war.

In the end, it was two big shots from the visitors and a huge advantage on the boards that lifted Leavitt to a season-opening 38-32 victory at Bath Middle School, the first game under new Hornets coach Dave Gerrish.

“The kids did a great job and just kept hanging in the basketball game,” said Gerrish, whose Hornets host Lincoln Academy on Tuesday. “Defense was pretty good on both sides, and we made just enough to pull this game out. Just a real good team effort. They played together and just wanted to win this basketball game.”

On the other side, Morse, in year two under the tutelage of Becky Roak, is 0-1 and visits Winslow on Tuesday.

“I think Leavitt did a great job on the boards, something that was a huge factor with putback after putback, and we didn’t make free throws,” said Roak after her Shipbuilders made just 16 of 32 free throws and were outrebounded by a staggering 34-19 total. “We tried to force the ball inside to Emma Harrington, which is our gameplan, and it just wasn’t there.”

Sloppy play

Leavitt jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first three minutes of Friday’s contest, as Sierra Santomango scored three points. But, Morse turned up the defense, forcing nine Hornet turnovers and running off a 6-0 run behind four points from Leia Graves for an 8-5 lead. Chantel Eells notched a basket to get Leavitt to 8-7 after eight minutes.

Down 14-11 with 2:41 remaining until halftime, Leavitt put together a six-point spurt, fueled by three steals from Meagan Dow. Santomango’s putback gave Leavitt the lead, 15-14, and Kendra Gilbert’s putback after two hard-working offensive rebounds pushed the Hornets into a 17-14 lead. Leavitt led 17-15 at the break despite 15 turnovers.

“They play hard every day that they come to practice and they played hard on defense tonight,” said Roak of her squad, who also struggled with turnovers in the first half, committing 20. “That is where we are right now. We play well on defense, but we need to find our offense and free-throw shooting.”

Morse tied the game at 17 on a Signe Ostergaard bucket, but Leavitt’s Tasha Cloutier drained a 3-pointer and was fouled. She made the free throw for a four-point play and a 21-17 Hornets lead. Moments later, Santomango stepped back and swished a trey for a 24-18 Leavitt edge.

“Those were huge shots, and you try to make a run at some point, and though that was just a mini-run, it was important in this one,” said Gerrish, who along with his first win at Leavitt picked up his first technical.

Morse made a run in the fourth quarter, shrinking Leavitt’s biggest lead, 29-22, to one point (29-28 with 4:52 remaining) as Ostergaard and Harrington each scored three points during a 6-0 run.

The Shipbuilders had their chances to take the lead, forcing three straight Leavitt turnovers, but Morse went cold on the offensive end. The Hornets held Morse to just one field goal in the fourth quarter, while Gilbert scored four of her eight points in the final frame.

Santomango and Cloutier led the Hornets with nine points each, while Eells had five points and Dow four. Leavitt was 13 of 48 (27 percent) from the floor and made just 10 of 28 from the free-throw line. Gilbert pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, with Eells adding eight boards and four steals. Dow had seven rebounds, six steals and three assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Harrington and Ostergaard paced Morse with nine points apiece, with Madison Savary chipping in five points and Graves four. The Shipbuilders were 8 of 34 (23 percent) from the field, with Ostergaard adding eight steals, Harrington five rebounds and three steals, and Noa Sreden four boards.

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