PORTAGE — On the verge of being swept away by the current of a Lake Central comeback, Portage found its life preserver.
It was Maurion Martin.
After the host Indians saw an 11-point halftime lead wiped out in the third quarter, the 6-foot-1 junior guard calmed the waters, scoring seven points in a decisive 11-0 counter that carried Portage past L.C, 53-45, for its first Duneland Athletic Conference victory on Monday.
"I'm one of our main scorers, I have to step up," Martin said. "We had to find a way to get back on it. I had to get in a flow. We came together and executed. We've fallen short in the DAC, but we couldn't let that matter. We had to find a way to win."
Martin had 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as Portage (9-11, 1-4) pushed the margin to double digits and secured the outcome at the free-throw line.
"We took their punch and punched back," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "That means we're progressing. We've been in a lot of close games. I was really happy about how we kept our composure when they were making their comeback. We bent, but we never broke. We've struggled at the line and it's cost us some games, but we hit some key free throws."
Save for a third-quarter run sparked by Keon Sellers, Lake Central (11-9, 1-4) was out of sorts all game. It shot 37 percent, including 2 of 13 from the arc, and committed 16 turnovers, many of them unforced.
"When you're not shooting well, you have to learn how to win those games," coach Dave Milausnic said. "We've been pretty good at taking care of the ball; it's how we've been able to compete. I don't care what day of the week it is, you should be able to catch a round ball. For whatever reason, mentally, we weren't here and I don't know why."
Doing all of his damage on drives to the rim, Greg Milledge staked Portage to a 16-5 lead early in the second quarter, scoring all 14 of his points in the first half.
"Overall, I thought it was Maurion and Greg's best games," Snodgrass said. "They played well on both ends."
Sellers, who sat a portion of the first half with two fouls, rallied L.C. with 12 of his 21 points in the third quarter to push his team in front, but couldn't sustain the momentum.
"We were ready to extend the lead but we turned it over a couple times, they responded and that was it," Milausnic said. "Credit Portage. They came out and executed and when we put the pressure on."
No other Portage player had more than six points, but it picked up big 3s in the second half from Noah Penrose and Jalen Smith, and James Havrilla had a strong rebounding night.
"We hit some shots we've been struggling to make," Snodgrass said, "James does a lot of things you don't notice in the stats. We shared the ball extremely well and got some rebounds when we needed them. I was proud of how we hung in there."
Lake Central had won eight in a row against Portage dating back to 2010.
"I'm happy for the kids, that we finally got over the hump," Snodgrass said. "Everything from the point is geared toward the tournament and these are the type of games we're going to have to win in the tournament."