TURNER — Mt. Blue put a lot of planning and effort into containing Leavitt junior guard Wyatt Hathaway, and he still finished with a season-high 40 points in the Hornets’ 68-53 win Friday night.

Despite the spread in the final score, Leavitt needed most of Hathaway’s production to hold off the pesky Cougars, particularly his 23 second-half points that helped keep them from getting any closer than seven points on several occasions, the final time with 2:35 left in the game. That was despite Mt. Blue losing its catalyst at both ends of the floor, senior forward Hunter Meeks (eight points), when he was assessed his fifth personal foul on a technical foul midway through the third quarter.

Wyatt Hathaway of Leavitt goes to the foul line during the third quarter of Friday’s game against Mt. Blue. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“They started out playing a box-and-one on me, and I finally started not taking a lot of shots and trying to beat my man off the dribble,” Hathaway said. “Cole (Morin) and Joziah (Learned) started hitting shots and (Mt. Blue) eventually came out of it and it opened up for me because I was playing one-on-one and they knew they couldn’t really help off of those guys.”

Camden Phillips led Mt. Blue (1-2) with 18 points.

The Cougars used a matchup zone to try to keep Hathaway from heating up. All of the Hornets started off a bit off the mark (11-for-31 in first half), but great work on the offensive boards by junior guard Joziah Learned (16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals) and senior center Cole Morin (five points, 16 rebounds, three steals) allowed them to build a 13-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After scoring seven in the first quarter, Hathaway poured in 10 points in the second quarter, and the Hornets limited the Cougars to 3-for-14 shooting in the period to widen their lead to 31-17 at halftime.

Out of necessity, Leavitt (3-0) was able to throw a wrinkle at the Cougars’ box-and-one on Hathaway in the first half. The Hornets lost senior starting guard Keegan Melanson after he took a knee to the thigh in the first quarter, but his replacement, sophomore guard Ben Sirois allowed them to move their top scorer off the ball, while having Sirois hound Mt. Blue junior guard Jacob Farnham (seven points, five rebounds, five assists, four steals) at the other end.

“He was tremendous defensively on Farnham,” Mike Hathaway said. “And that also allowed us to put him at the point, with Wyatt and Joziah on the wings. For Ben to give us that flexibility and really come in and have his first big varsity night to defend Farnham the way he did, that was huge for us.”

Leavitt led by as many as 15 early in the third quarter before Meeks scored six straight points, then came up with a steal that led to a Hunter Donald hoop that pulled the Cougars within 36-25.

“For some reason we didn’t play with any energy in the first half,” Mt. Blue coach Troy Norton said. “We came out in the second half and Hunter got us going until he got the fouls and the technical. Against a good team like that you just can’t get down that much in the first half.

“Obviously, Wyatt, we just didn’t have any answer for him.”

A 3-pointer by Hathaway made it 40-25 but those would be his final points of the quarter as Mt. Blue, who got an emotional spark from Meeks’ disqualification on a technical foul due to his reaction to being called for his fourth foul, went on an 11-4 run to pull within eight on a pair of 3-pointers by Phillips.

Leavitt countered with Learned and Morin working their two-man game to maintain the eight-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.

“Our big man set a lot of ball screens for us and it opened up some stuff,” Learned said.

“They started face-guarding Wyatt and picking him up a little bit higher (in the offensive sets),” Mike Hathaway said. “We just felt like Joziah and Cole had a good thing going there, so we kind of went to that a little bit. Then they had to recommit back that way and that opened Wyatt up to a few more things.”

The Cougars got as close as seven points three times in the final stanza, the last time on Phillips’ 3-pointer that made it 57-50 with 2:35 to go. But Morin set up Learned for a hoop and Hathaway finished a drive down the middle of the lane with a nice flip shot to spark an 11-3 game-clinching run.

Hathaway scored 16 points (10 free throws and two field goals) in the final quarter.

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