Gemima Motema scored 21 points while leading Portland to 56-49 victory over Bonny Eagle in a SMAA girls’ basketball game at the Portland Expo Tuesday night.

Motema scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and notched four steals in the fourth quarter.

“I played good defense (in the fourth quarter), I made plays and led the team,” said Motema.

Portland Coach Gerry Corcoran admires Motema’s game and makes sure she does not lose sight of her potential. Corcoran said he talks more to Motema, a sophomore, about UConn than Portland High.

“(Motema) is so gifted athletically and she is just learning the game,” said Corcoran.

Bonny Eagle’s Samantha Averill passes out of the pressure defense being applied by Portland during Tuesday’s game at the Portland Expo. Portland won the game, 56-49. Staff photo by John Ewing

Motema filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, nine steals and two blocks.

“We played against a tough team, we just trusted ourselves,” said Motema.

Portland (10-4) fell behind 10-6 midway through the first quarter, prompting Corcoran to call a timeout.

The Bulldogs were unable to score on the following possession, then allowed a bucket from Samantha Averill (13 points) on the other end that led to another timeout from Corcoran.

“I hate (calling two quick timeouts) because I want to keep them at the end, but I saw exactly what happened to us at Bangor – we went down five early and never caught up,” said Corcoran.

Portland responded with a 28-9 run to take a 13-point lead at halftime.

Portland’s Davina Kabantu breaks to the basket past Bonny Eagle’s Lindsay Frazier. Staff photo by John Ewing

“We shot the ball a little bit better but it was really the defense that built that 13-point lead,” said Corcoran.

In that first quarter, Bonny Eagle (11-4) lost its starting point guard, Mackenzie Emery, who was placed in concussion protocol by Portland trainers after hitting the back of her head on the floor.

“Having a player of (Emery’s) caliber ruled out makes it a tough stretch,” said Bonny Eagle Coach Scott Regan. “She got hit and was dizzy, but by halftime she was perfectly fine.”

Emery had three assists and played tough defense before exiting.

“(Bonny Eagle) is a very good basketball team. It’s not easy for them, I know their complaint on that because it is their best player and it is our trainer, but he did a concussion protocol on her,” said Corcoran.

Bonny Eagle did not wilt despite the large halftime deficit. The Scots picked up their defensive intensity in the third quarter, forcing Portland to commit seven turnovers as they outscored the Bulldogs 13-7.

Portland’s Gemima Motema outraces the Bonny Eagle defense for a breakaway layup. Staff photo by John Ewing

The Scots carried that momentum into the beginning of the fourth quarter as they took a 44-43 lead on a pair of free throws from Averill with 4:54 left in the game.

“I can’t be more proud of our girls, they killed it. To come back without our point guard, other girls stepped up. We just couldn’t finish,” said Regan.

Portland responded with a 7-0 run over the next minute-and-a-half, but Bonny Eagle countered by pulling to within two at 50-48 after Mia Ferrante (16 points) made both free throws with 2:01 left, but got no closer.

Bonny Eagle’s Deirdre Sanborn scored nine points and added nine rebounds and four steals.

“(Sanborn) literally put (Bonny Eagle) on her shoulders,” said Corcoran.

Bonny Eagle had entered Tuesday with a nine-game winning streak – its last loss was Dec. 29 at The Maine Girls’ Academy.

“It doesn’t hurt to remember what it’s like to lose,” said Regan.