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Devils getting closer to impact win

Lowell's Zach VanHook drives basket past Merrillville's Jake Raspopovich during game Tuesday February 12 2013 Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times

Lowell's Zach VanHook drives to the basket past Merrillville's Jake Raspopovich during a game on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, in Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media

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Merrillville 68, Lowell 60

MERRILLVILLE (17-2) 17 - 10 - 19 - 22 == 68

LOWELL (10-8) 12 - 21 - 6 - 21 == 60

2-12-13 in Lowell

MERRILLVILLE (68) BJ Jenkins 5-3-17, Jelani Pruitt 2-2-6, Zoran Talley 4-1-10, Jamard Owens 5-0-11, Darion Williams 9-2-20, Isiah Wilson 0-2-2, KV Myricks 1-0-2, Jake Raspopovich 0-0-0, Isiah Wilson 0-0-0,Donte Lockwood 0-0-0. TOTALS: 26 (10-19) 68.

LOWELL (60) Billy Barker 6-3-19, Zach Van Hook 5-7-17, Spenser Kersey 3-3-9, Brandon Cory 2-2-7, Eric Zukauskas 4-0-8, Jordan Hansen 0-0-0, Nick Gramhofer 0-0-0, John Daugherty 0-0-0.

TOTALS: 20 (15-18) 60.

FREE THROWS: MERRILLVILLE (10-19, 52.6%) Jenkins 3-4, Pruitt 2-7, Talley 1-4, Wilson 2-2, Williams 2-2; LOWELL (15-18, 82.2%) Barker 3-4, Van Hook 7-7, Kersey 3-5, Cory 2-2.

REBOUNDS: MERRILLVILLE (23) Williams 6, Pruitt 6, Talley 3, Owens 3, Jenkins 2, Raspopovich, Wilson, Wilbert; LOWELL (19) Zukauskas 11, Kersey 4, Van Hook 2, Cory 2.

ASSISTS: MEREILLVILLE (12) Jenkins 5, Raspopovich 3, Owens, Wilbert, Williams, Myricks; LOWELL (16) Cory 5, Van Hook 5, Kersey 4, Zukauskas 2.

3-GOALS: MERRILLVILLE (6) BJ Jenkins 4, Zoran Talley, Jamard Owens; LOWELL (5) Billy Barker 4, Brandon Cory.

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Updated: February 19, 2013 12:18PM



LOWELL — Maybe the loss to Merrillville was Lowell’s last “moral victory” for awhile.

It’s going to have to be.

Saturday night, Lowell rolled over Crown Point 48-30 behind 22 points from junior Zach Van Hook in a game in which the Devils (9-11) controlled the second half.

CP is only 5-14 this season so the Devils certainly expected to win. For the record, that’s just Lowell’s second victory over the Bulldogs in 13 years.

It was good, but Lowell needs to be better if it is to knock off favored Lake Central (13-7) in the Class 4A sectional quarterfinals Tuesday night at 7 7.m. at Gary West Side.

A more hopeful barometer of Lowell’s late-season surge may have been the 68-60 home loss to Merrillville last week. For the third time since the first of the year, Lowell played a state-rated team well into the fourth quarter with a chance to win.

On Jan. 25, Lowell lost to 4A No. 1 Munster (22-0) by 10 points. The next week it lost to 3A No. 3 Andrean (15-3) by three points.

Last week against 4A No.11 Merrillville (15-3) and down 17-10 early, Lowell played its new, patient, counter attacking style to near perfection, outscoring the Duneland Athletic Conference champs 23-10 to take a 33-27 halftime lead using basically just the starting five players.

Merrillville used a 31-11 run to try to put Lowell in its place but, even as its players tired, the home team didn’t collapse in a respectable finish.

The Devils have played strong single games occasionally in the last few years but this is as good as Lowell has looked consistently against proven opponents in recent memory. They’ve bought into a style of play that gives them a chance.

“They have,” said Lowell coach Nate Richie. “Our guys are willing to do what they have to do to win. You have to give Merrillville credit. They’re 15-2 for a reason. They showed resiliency. That’s not the first time they’ve come from behind.”

“That’s what we have to learn to do. We’re putting ourselves in position to win. We have to show the same resiliency they did and finish the game.”

Merrillville coach TJ Lux noticed.

“Lowell did a great job of passing the ball and being patient, finding holes in the defense” he said. “In the second half, we finally found a defense that stopped them, and we loaded the baseline to get some easy shots.”

“They’ve had great success doing that against Munster and Andrean,” Lux said. “Making it a low possessions game. We got careless and they took advantage.”

Richie and the Lowell coaching staff are well aware that the Devils basically have found success with the five starters and sixth man Jordan Hansen going against other teams that use nine and 10 players.

The coaches have told Lowell starters that, for the rest of the season, they simply can’t get tired.

“We’re going pretty hardc in pratcice,” Richie reports, “and we don’t give them much of a break because we can’t. That’s the way it’s going to be if we’re going to win.”

The addition of non-scoring point guard Brandon Cory, an accomplished dribbler and passer, has allowed top scorer Zach Van Hook to play off the ball and opened up wing shooter Billy Barker as the third option. Lowell has become a team that handles a full court press well.

“We love teams to press,” said Richie. “We work on that every day. That’s something we’ll be able to handle. But we’ve got to get the win. Pretty soon, we’ll be beating teams like this.”

With the draw, “pretty soon” needs to be Tuesday night.

DEVIL NOTES: Merrillville did not appear to start a regular lineup as BJ Jenkins was on the bench. The Pirates substituted Jenkins and four other seniors with the score tied 7-7 and 3:56 left in the first quarter.

Merrillville has 12 seniors on the roster and appeared to simply be giving some a rare chance to start in their senior season.

If you have 12 seniors, obviously they can’t all start on Senior Night.

The Pirates have lost only to Munster (20-0) and Andrean (16-3).



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