MANCHESTER — Greg Cotreau said at one point during the Manchester Memorial girls’ basketball team’s game against Portsmouth on Tuesday that he wanted the ball in Lyric Grumblatt’s hands more. That wish was granted in a big way as the Crusaders escaped with a 40-38 win over the Clippers at Bronstein Gymnasium.

Grumblatt forced a quick steal that led to a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds to play, which ended up being the difference for the Crusaders (6-1). Portsmouth had a final possession after the free throws, but the Clippers (5-2) could only generate a missed 3-pointer from Brittany Graham at the horn.

“In that situation, we just really needed to lock down our defense,” Grumblatt said. “I could see them starting with that pass and I just went for it. From there, I tried to get to the hoop as fast as I could because I didn’t know how much time was left and ends up fouling me.”

The Clippers tied the game before Grumblatt’s steal with a four-point swing off back-to-back turnovers by the Crusaders. Portsmouth had 20 seconds to work with after a timeout and used as much of that time as it could to ensure it would get the final shot. What the possession lacked besides a finish was energy, according to Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley.

“It was just a little lackadaisical on the swing of the ball there,” Hopley said. “Instead of catching, squaring up and going to a triple-threat position, we kind of caught it and went in one motion. That was a good anticipation and read on Lyric’s part.”

Grumblatt scored a game-high 17 points for the Crusaders, including 11 in the second half with 5-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line. The junior came up big at other times for Memorial as it played with Portsmouth on its hip throughout the night. Six of her second-half points came during an 11-2 run in the third quarter that pushed the Crusaders’ lead from one point to 10. Then in the fourth quarter, Grumblatt hit a key 3-pointer to once again give the Crusaders breathing room at 35-30 with 4:52 left.

Cotreau said Grumblatt’s offensive feats have a lot to do with the team’s balanced scoring, which Jennessa Brunette (nine points) and Tamrah Gould (eight points) offered on Tuesday.

Portsmouth was spearheaded by a team-high 15 points from Arianna Hebert, who scored six of those during Portsmouth’s fourth-quarter comeback. Abbe Laurence tossed in 10 points for the Clippers while playing just two minutes in the first half after getting into foul trouble.

“We’ve played in that situation without her in four or five games to start the season,” said Hopley of running without 6-foot-2 Laurence, who missed the start of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Laurence and 6-foot-1 Corinne Lamond gave Portsmouth a clear size advantage it was unable to capitalize on. “It wasn’t like we were in uncharted waters. We can play much better, but we really couldn’t play worse than we did in the first half.”

Memorial led 13-4 after the opening quarter before an 8-2 Portsmouth run helped them claw to within 19-14 at halftime. Portsmouth’s overall tough night hinged on missing interior buckets, which Memorial had a hand in by packing the paint, knowing the Clippers had little firepower from the outside.

“The goal was simple,” Cotreau said. “We were going to hound them with Tamrah and Jess (Carrier) just over half court to make them think about making good passes. Everybody else was playing pretty good back line defense where we were two or three steps into the pain. They must have felt like there were 10 Memorial players on the floor when they caught the ball.”

jduball@unionleader.com