WESTBROOK—A trio of Westbrookers – Mike Connolly, Tyler Hethcoat and Kyle McKone – recorded double-digit outings vs. Leavitt on Thursday night, Dec. 19, but inconsistency hobbled the team. The Blazes looked ferocious for a few minutes here and there, especially in the mid-Q3, but trailed the Hornets 74-52 come the final buzzer.

“We’re like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing,” Westbrook head coach Bryan Hoy said. “We’ll play great for four minutes and then we’ll be awful for four minutes. We’ve got to figure out how to…[avoid] that rollercoaster.”

The Blazes struggled from the outset, falling behind 11-6 on a three-point play by Hornet Wyatt Hathaway – Hathaway ultimately logged a game-high 26 – then 13-6 on another Hathaway two and 15-6 on a Cole Morin two.

Leavitt silenced Connolly through those first eight minutes, but Westbrook nevertheless found the basket at times: McKone drained a pair of threes for the team, Matt Eugley a pair of twos and Hethcoat a two as well.

Still, by the end of Q1, the Hornets commanded a daunting, 22-12 upper-hand.

Hoy remarked on some of the changes his boys are making to turn their program around. “We’re putting in a lot of new defenses,” he said, by way of example. “And it’s not like we’re putting in, ‘Here’s man-to-man defense’; we’re putting in traps and some stuff they’ve probably never seen before. So we’re about four weeks into it, and now we’ve just got to keep getting better at it.”

The Blazes fell further behind in the second. Early in the quarter, they slashed their deficit to six, hitting 25-19 on a Donovin Drummond two. After that, however, Leavitt broke into a 10-point run and extended their lead to 16: 41-26 at the half.

“We battled, and that’s a good sign,” said Hoy, who’s in his first year at the Westbrook helm. “They’re coming off a tough season, with a new coach, they’re trying to learn all this new stuff, but they keep working at it. They don’t give up and they don’t quit.”

The Hornets tallied the first four of the second half, Hathaway making it 45-26. But Connolly followed up with a spin-jumper in the key for 45-28, and Westbrook began to pick up steam: Across the next several minutes, Connolly added a couple of frees, Connor Doolittle a three and Hethcoat a pair of threes and a pair of twos. Connolly and Hethcoat made quite the duo during Westbrook’s big run, which saw the team cut its deficit from 17 to seven: 50-43.

“I just told them to hang in,” Hoy said, asked about his halftime pep-talk. “It seemed like we hit, ‘Okay, we lost; we’re down by 15 at halftime, we lost. And then in the huddle under timeout I reminded them, ‘Guys, we got a long game left.’”

Unfortunately, Hathaway sank a buzzer-beater three from nearly halfcourt to end the third and siphon off much of the Blazes’ momentum. Leavitt then spent the waning quarter outpacing the Blazes 21-9 to charge distantly out front again. Joziah Learned added two in the stretch, Morin four, Sawyer Hathaway five and Wyatt Hathaway 10 as the teams careened toward the 74-52 result.

Connolly finished with 18 for Westbrook, Hethcoat with 12, McKone 11, Eugley four, Doolittle three and Caden Dow two.

“Mike is Mike: He’s a really good player and he’s tough to stop,” Hoy said. “Tyler, especially tonight, defensively he was outstanding. He guarded the Hathaway kid, who had 40 the other night. He had 26 tonight, but a lot of them were in transition and stuff that weren’t Tyler’s responsibility. When he had him in halfcourt, Tyler did an outstanding job.”

The Blazes slipped on the loss to 0-3 this winter; they’ve since dropped a fourth outing, 54-46 to Brunswick. They hit the road for their next three games, facing Falmouth on Monday the 23rd, Morse on Monday the 30th and Biddeford on Thursday the 2nd.

“Even after a tough loss,” Hoy said, “the attitude was pretty positive in the locker room that they want to keep getting better and they want to be good, so hopefully they continue to put in the effort to get there. Because it’s going to take some time.”

Westbrooker Kolbyn Dunphey powers along the baseline, looking for two. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mike Connolly leads the Blazes’ offense this winter. Adam Birt / American Journal

Kyle McKone added 11 for Westbrook in the loss. Adam Birt / American Journal

Trying for a layup, Connor Doolittle weaves between Leavitt defenders. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mike Connolly fires off a jumper for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Tyler Hethcoat ascends toward the net for an easy two. Adam Birt / American Journal

Westbrooker Matt Eugley battles in midair. Adam Birt / American Journal

Connor Doolittle shovels inward for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

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