SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland girls’ basketball team knocked off defending Class AA state champion Edward Little 46-38 Tuesday night.

In a game that featured four ties and 10 lead changes, South Portland (14-1) saved its best for last, breaking open a close game with a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter.

South Portland, which extended its win streak to 12 games, got a game-high 20 points from Maggie Whitmore, three clutch second half 3-pointers from Bela Cloutier and a strong effort at both ends from Kaleisha Towle.

“That was the biggest team win we’ve had all season,” Whitmore said. “It was a great win. We knew if we stayed together as a team, we’d dig it out.”

South Portland, which trailed 10-8 in the first quarter, had trouble with Edward Little’s smothering defense. Despite four points, five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots from Towle, the Red Riots trailed by two points as Hannah Chaput and Grace Fontaine had four points apiece for the Red Eddies.

Edward Little lost a valuable player 11 seconds into the second quarter when Fontaine landed hard and hurt her ankle and could not return to play.

There were 10 lead changes in the first half, but in the final minute, after Jena Leckie dived for a steal, Ashlee Aceto was fouled and hit two free throws to put South Portland ahead to stay. And, after a Towle offensive rebound, Whitmore buried a 3 just before the half to give the Red Riots an 18-14 lead.

Edward Little tied the score twice in the third quarter, but Cloutier countered with 3-pointers each time. A late layup from Leckie allowed South Portland to cling to a 28-26 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, the Red Riots finally pulled away as Whitmore made a layup, set up her sister, Katie Whitmore, for a layup, then scored on a put-back to make it 34-26 with 5:19 to play.

The Red Eddies had one final run and pulled within three, 36-33, on a pair free throws by Chaput, but Cloutier answered with a clutch 3.

“I’ve learned through the years to keep shooting because sometimes the ball falls and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Cloutier. “I just shot and hoped it went in. Coach (Lynne Hasson) called it a gutsy shot.”

Maggie Whitmore then hit another 3 and South Portland didn’t look back.

“We haven’t had a competitive game in awhile,” said Hasson. “(Edward Little) is aggressive and quick. They’re a really good team.”

Edward Little (9-6) got 16 points from Chaput and eight points from reserve Brooklyn Alexander.

“This gives us a good indication of what the kids can do down the stretch,” said Red Eddies Coach Chris Cifelli. “South Portland just shot so well and they have so many weapons.

“February vacation is when you want to play your best basketball. We know we’re in, we just want to play well.”

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