TURNER — The Poland girls’ basketball team wanted to start strong.

The Knights wanted to start their post-Christmas slate strong, and they wanted to do likewise in their matchup with Leavitt.

They followed through Friday, defeating the Hornets 62-37.

“You know, where it’s been Christmas break, we wanted to make sure that we came out in the first five minutes to really set the tempo and let our defense dictate our offense, and I think we did a really good job with that,” Poland coach Tim Dolley said.

It took the Knights most of the first quarter to gain firm control of the scoreboard, but they controlled the rhythm of the game from the outset, using their press to disrupt the Hornets, and making pinpoint passes to set up easy baskets.

“I thought they came out with a lot more energy than we did, played harder than we did,” Leavitt coach Dave Gerrish said.

“They really clicked that first eight minutes of the game. Everything we were trying to do, they did it better.”

Poland led 14-6 after one quarter, and 29-16 at halftime.

Nathalie Theriault (15 points) and Jessica Seeley (11 points) did most of the first-half damage, scoring 26 of the Knights’ 29 points.

Despite those figures, the first half, and the entire game, was a team effort by Poland. Every player was cutting and every player was passing and making the Knights’ motion offense hum.

“I think a big thing for us was just coming out and playing hard. We knew we had to run hard, Leavitt’s a good team,” Theriault said. “We put in a new offense. We knew we had to run through the offense and really put the pieces together to come out with a win.”

In the third quarter, Poland essentially eliminated any hopes Leavitt had of rallying back.

On the first play of the half, Morgan Brousseau inbounded the ball from midcourt. She tossed the ball over the defense to a streaking Theriault, who easily laid the ball into the basket.

Poland scored the first 11 points of the quarter to push its lead to 40-17.

“That’s what we talked about at halftime,” Dolley said. “We talked about how we started the game, and we wanted to make sure the first five minutes (we) started the way we started the game.

“We just really wanted to leave no doubt and really get a good run in the third quarter.”

Theriault scored seven of those 11 points and finished with a game-high 26. Seeley scored 19, and Brousseau added seven.

The strong start to the post-holidays schedule was particularly important because Poland (4-2), after a 3-0 start, had lost two straight games (albeit to state powerhouses Greely and Gray-New Gloucester). The Knights next travel to face Waynflete on Thursday.

After Poland’s early third-quarter run, Gerrish said Leavitt (2-3) finally started to look more like itself.

“I thought in the second half, we came around and played,” Gerrish said. “You know, our whole thought process is to keep improving. We didn’t play great today. We’ll come back next week and get in the gym and see if we can play a little better.”

Sophia Gilbert led the Hornets with 11 points, eight of which she scored after halftime. Rebecca Fogg finished with nine points, and Jayden Carpenter had seven.

Leavitt will look to get back on track at Morse on Tuesday.

Lexy Grondin of Poland Regional High School dribbles around Rebecca Fogg of Leavitt Area High School in Turner on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Nathalie Theriault of Poland Regional High School lays up a shot against Leavitt Area High School in Turner on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Kayleigh Gilbert of Leavitt Area High School looks to pass while being guarded by Sophie Vallee of Poland Regional High School in Turner on Friday.  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Jayden Carpenter of Leavitt Area High School brings the ball up the court during Friday’s game against Poland Regional High School in Turner. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)