STANDISH—They had them.

Through three quarters on Thursday night, Jan. 9, Bonny Eagle led visiting South Portland: Scots star Zach Maturo propelled his boys out front early, logging an 18-point first half for a 26-20 upper-hand at the break.

But BE wobbled a bit in the third, then fell behind early in the fourth, the quarter that crushed the team. The Riots outscored the Scots 12-1 through those last eight minutes for a dispiriting 43-34 final.

“I dunno,” Bonny Eagle head coach John Trull said, asked what went wrong. “We just didn’t execute our stuff. Probably got a little tired. I didn’t coach very well.”

Maturo, a senior, finished the night with 19 (more on that later). Junior Jake Humphrey – often hot on Maturo’s numerical heels, and sometimes ahead of him – managed just seven (more on that later, too). Inside man Nate Ferris added two, as did subs Jake Esty, Aidan Walcott and Jawaun Teel.

South Portland picked up the first two of the night, but Maturo answered swiftly with a three. Possession changed hands rapidly: A Riot traveled, Maturo fouled, a Riot missed a three. Humphrey missed a three, Scot Chase Graves fouled – and, finally, another basket: Cade Carr dropped in a two for South Portland. 4-3.

The Scots responded with a slick, 8-0 run: Humphrey fed to Gardner, who fed to Maturo for an inside two; Maturo kicked in two more; Gardner defensive-rebounded and dished to Maturo, who relayed to Humphrey for a layup. SoPo called timeout. That timeout didn’t pay off – at least not immediately – as Graves proceeded to steal control back and assist Humphrey on another BE two. 11-4.

The action tightened: Gerik Bialorucki and Pamba Pamba bucketed back-to-back for South Portland, Graves traveled, and Hunter Owen added two more for the Riots. 11-10. But the Scots responded in kind, Keegan Meredith feeding Maturo for an inside two and Elliot Bouchard grabbing a defensive rebound to set up a Maturo three.

16-10 BE after one. Phew.

Among the Scots’ chief advantages over the Riots in the game – in the uphill couple quarters, anyway – was their outside shooting. Humphrey and Gardner, both often good for multiple threes in a contest, never found the basket from beyond the arc, but Maturo had his boys’ backs. Maturo drained four threes through the first half; at times, he looked mighty casual about it, too.

The Riots, meanwhile, didn’t tally a single three all evening. And many of their tries from just this side of the arc – shots from high in the paint or high in the key that would’ve fallen as twos, had they fallen at all – missed by more than a little. That those attempts would sail errant became almost predictable after a while. It all looked highly uncharacteristic of an undefeated team, the current Terror of AA South.

Carr hit the first two of the second, and South Portlander Owen Maloney hit the next: 16-14. Humphrey then approached on the attack, prowled the perimeter for a few seconds – he was sizing things up, biding his time, surveying his options – and dished. Inside. To Esty, lurking underneath. Esty dropped in the two.

Walcott soon made it 20-14, but Gardner then missed a three attempt. A Riot grabbed the rebound and lasered a bounce-pass up the middle of the court for teammate, who laid in a quick two. Graves fouled and Maloney added two more, only for Maturo to counter with a nonchalant three.

Time dwindling, Bonny Eagler Cam Phinney got called for a push. That sent South Portland into bonus territory, but Riot Ryan Boles missed the first of his one-and-one shots. The ball squirted away from ensuing melee; players dove, but nobody could reel it in and it trickled OB. SoPo had taken the last touch, so possession went BE and Maturo wasted no time sinking another three. Pamba earned the last two of the half, but the opponents went to their respective locker rooms for the intermission with the Scots out front 26-20.

“No, not really happy about anything,” Trull said, asked if he was satisfied with, if not the outcome of the contest, at least boys’ play through the first 16 minutes. “We didn’t play well enough. We had a good opportunity. We got [South Portland] on a night they were cold from shooting, and we couldn’t take advantage. So there’s really no positives.”

Bonny Eagle stumbled a bit in the third, underperforming their guests to the tune of 10-7. Humphrey opened the quarter with a two from mid-key – but only after the Riots nearly stole the ball from him and he recovered. Geremi Baez and Boles hashed the next four points, pulling South Portland worryingly close: 28-24. Bialorucki next stole and converted for 28-26.

Humphrey answered with a steal of his own; he lingered for a savvy beat on the outside before shoveling inward for Ferris, who added two. Carr struck back.

Humphrey, grabbing a d-reb, took a foul and stepped to the line. He hit his first, but missed his second, which rebounded to Maturo. Maturo fired off what would’ve been a three attempt – would’ve been, had a SoPo defender not blocked the ball.

Owen pushed his boys to within one at 31-30, and though Teel hashed the last two of the third – a pair of frees – the Scots had relinquished half their hard-earned lead.

South Portland jetted out front for the first time in a long time near the start of the fourth. Maloney drained a two, then a Gardner pass flew OB and Ferris fouled. Carr followed that latter turnover with two on the inbounds: 34-33, Riots.

SoPo continued to build on their momentum, while Bonny Eagle struggled to get theirs – any of it – back. It wouldn’t come. Maturo added the team’s only point of the stretch, and his only point of the entire second half, on a foul-shot late. That brought the Scots within six, 40-34, but nothing else, just nothing else went right for them in those last eight minutes.

43-34 the final.

“Every team concentrates on Zach,” Trull said. “It’s not a secret. So we have to be better as a team, we have to be coached better, we have to have other guys step up, and right now it’s not happening anywhere.”

The Scots slide on the loss to 5-5. That’s not a flattering record on its face, but it calls for some close scrutiny: The team kicked off the winter 3-0 before plunging into a brutal, seven-game stretch against the top teams in both AA South and AA North. Of those seven, they – you’ve probably done the math already – lost five and won two.

BE was in each of those five losses, however. They fell to No. 1 SoPo (AA South, now 10-0) on Dec. 20 by a mere one point – and after coming back from a deep deficit, no less; they then triumphed 65-57 over fourth-ranked Sanford (AA South, 4-6 currently). After that they suffered a close defeat, 65-61, at No. 2 Deering (AA North, 7-1) and recorded a thrilling 48-47 win at home vs. fifth-place Scarborough (AA South, 6-4).

Since then, the Scots have faced a trio of defeats. BE fell by six on the road at No. 2 TA (AA South, 8-1); they fell by 16 (a misleading differential) when they welcomed No. 1 Edward Little (AA North, 8-1) – that was on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Finally, of course, the second loss to South Portland.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Trull said. “We’re not playing as well as we need to be, and we’re not beating the teams that we thought we were better than or as-good-as. We’re not where we want to be; if we’re taking steps forward, they’re not big enough steps.”

So BE feels some frustration with their recent efforts. Maybe they should feel that way, maybe they shouldn’t: Again, none of their losses was an epic beat-down, and besides, it’s better to get those Ls behind them now – to figure out now the ways in which they need to grow – than to suffer defeat down the road, in the tournament.

At the risk of your favorite local sports reporter going full talking-head: From an outsider’s perspective, the Scots look most competitive when they’re settled. That’s easy to say, of course, because it’s basically always true: Most every team benefits from being “settled.” But BE often attacks with such frenetic aggression, they look like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

That can work for them, sure. But it can also cause missteps. When the team is more deliberate about controlling the tempo of play, additional good things seem to result. Their ball-movement looks cleverer and more successful, their shot selection looks wiser and they appear to commit fewer turnovers. When those elements fall into place for them, Bonny Eagle scores on the best opposition with a certain silky, confident ease.

But that’s just talking-head mumbo-jumbo; set it aside, because it is, yeah, an outsider’s perspective. The Scots have to make their own way. Happily, they’ve got time to do it, as well as the talent and the coaching. We’re just over halfway through the regular season, and there’s no danger of the team missing the postseason; really, the only danger is that they’ll get discouraged and give up.

Adam Birt, signing off.

Cam Phinney battles on the boards. Adam Birt / American Journal

Scot Aidan Walcott vies with Riot Pamba Pamba. Adam Birt / American Journal

Cam Gardner jets forward on the attack. Adam Birt / American Journal

Jake Esty lofts up a layup attempt for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

Zach Maturo kicked off the game in style, hashing 10 in the first quarter. Adam Birt / American Journal

Nate Ferris volleys off a shot. Adam Birt / American Journal

South Portland managed to hold Scots standout Jake Humphrey to just seven points. Adam Birt / American Journal

Freshman Scot Elliott Bouchard brings exceptional height to the roster. Adam Birt / American Journal

Chase Graves drives for BE. Adam Birt / American Journal

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