TURNER — Leavitt’s explosive second-half performance laid the groundwork for the Hornets’ hard-fought 70-55 victory over scrappy Mountain Valley in a boys basketball game on Wednesday night.

The Falcons (3-3) were flying high in the first half with their annoying defense and an offense that stayed just one step ahead of the Hornets (3-2). By halftime, Mountain Valley held on to a 31-30 lead before Leavitt got its act together in the second half.

“We talked at halftime,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “Defensively, we were just really bad. I mean they were good and we were bad in the first half. 

“So, we didn’t keep the ball in front of us. We didn’t rotate. So that was really the whole halftime talk. We have to be better defensively and that will lead to better offense — and it did.”

Leavitt rallied in the third quarter thanks to senior guards Joziah Learned (game-high 30 points) and Wyatt Hathaway (23 points), whose perimeter and foul shooting inspired the Hornets. The pair each went 9-for-11 at the foul line and were responsible for five of Leavitt’s six 3-pointers.

“The first half, we didn’t play how we wanted to,” Wyatt Hathaway said. “We didn’t play very good defense, and in the locker room, we talked about: ‘We’ve got to buckle down and play some defense.’”

Learned started off Leavitt’s blistering third-quarter foray, scoring five straight points. Hathaway knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help widen the Hornets’ lead. When all was said and done, Leavitt threw together a sturdy 48-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and its defense held Mountain Valley to just six points.

“I do whatever I can do to help the team,” Learned said. “We moved the ball very well. Mountain Valley is a tough, tough team. They play tough defense and don’t quit.”

Learned led off again in the fourth quarter, spotting the Hornets seven points. His efforts sparked Leavitt’s 22-point performance that also featured Hathaway’s eight key points.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Mountain Valley coach Scott New said. “The first half, we came in and moved the ball really well offensively and we got some really good looks.

“We knew from the first game of season we played them, we knew they were going to be better — and they were. They have two really good players with the Learned kid and Wyatt…We knew we had to shut them down to contain them. Leavitt is a good team.”

Mountain Valley gave the Hornets a wake-up call in the first half with its speed, agility, and when the Falcons were left open at the perimeter, they had no problem capitalizing on the 3-pointer. Senior guard Keagan Pitcher deposited four of the Falcons’ eight 3-pointers for 12 points. Senior Kalen Chase also added 12. Sophomore Airick Richard turned in the team-high 20 points.

“They are scrappy,” Mike Hathaway said. “I told them that after the game. I love their team. They play hard all the time. They push the ball. They share the ball. Coach Scott New is doing a good job with those guys. So they gave us two really, really tough games.”

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