Portland Coach Gerry Corcoran didn’t immediately approve of the shot Gemima Motema took from behind the 3-point arc near the end of Friday night’s girls’ basketball game against undefeated Maine Girls’ Academy.

With the score tied 37-37 and less than a minute remaining, a missed opportunity could cost the Bulldogs the game.

“I’m saying to myself, ‘That’s not what we talked about in the last timeout. Don’t take a jump shot, go to the basket,'” Corcoran recalled. “But then I saw the release and thought, ‘That may go in.'”

It did, giving the Bulldogs the lead once and for all at the Portland Expo. Portland (8-3) held on for the 42-39 victory, handing the Lions (9-1) their first loss of the season.

Motema led the Bulldogs with 13 points, including a layup right in the closing seconds.

“I just trusted myself,” Motema said of her tiebreaking 3-pointer. “That was a tough game, and I’m proud of my team and myself.”

Though the Bulldogs managed to score when it counted, they struggled had trouble making shots throughout the game, missing eight uncontested layups.

“That’s 16 points we gave away,” Corcoran said. “(Motema) was really down at halftime for the layups she missed. I just said to her, ‘Your time will come to make the play,’ and she made the play.”

The Bulldogs’ defense and aggressive rebounding compensated for their offensive struggles. They held MGA to four points in the first quarter and led most the game.

MGA’s Katie Fitzpatrick opened up the scoring a minute into the game, giving the Lions their only lead. She finished with 14 points.

Motema answered with a layup, then forced a turnover on the Lions’ following possession. After making the steal, Motema drove down the court into the paint, where she fed Amanda Kabantu under the basket with a nifty pass through her legs. Kabantu made the field goal to pull the Bulldogs ahead 4-2.

The Bulldogs capitalized on another Motema steal late in the first quarter, with Callie Watson converting that turnover into a basket to give the Bulldogs a 10-4 lead entering the second.

Portland held MGA scoreless for another four minutes before Catherine Reid ended the drought, cutting the Bulldogs’ advantage to 12-6. It was 22-16 at halftime.

“We went into the locker room during halftime, and we just needed to get that energy back,” Fitzpatrick said. “We needed to come back with that passion and the hard work we bring to the court. And we did that, we worked our tails off.”

The Lions chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead until, with less than five minutes left, Fitzpatrick tied the score at 35-35. In an attempt to keep the ball inbounds after it bounced off a Portland player, Motema swatted the ball back into play, and Fitzpatrick snagged it and capitalized on the opportunity.

Motema responded with a field goal before Jill Joyce tied it again at 37, making two free throws. The Lions were 13 for 16 from the foul line.

“We practice a lot of form shooting and a lot of foul shooting; we’re mentally tough,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think this was a good loss for us. Even though it sucks, it’s going to prepare us for playoff games.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or:

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