Boys basketball: B.J. Jenkins seals Merrillville victory over Crown Point
MERRILLVILLE — Second chances are a part of life.
Merrillville’s B.J. Jenkins knows that.
And he made the most of his second opportunity on Friday night, knocking down the game’s biggest basket with four seconds left to lift the Pirates past Crown Point, 60-59, in Duneland Athletic Conference play, erasing a 17-point second-half deficit.
Jenkins, who missed the go-ahead shot on Merrillville’s previous possession, got some help from Jamard Owens with 38.3 seconds left as Owens grabbed the offensive board and scored to give his team a 58-57 lead.
But a gritty Tom Bardeson — who led all scorers with 22 points — came back down with the ball for CP (5-11, 2-9), was fouled and knocked down his two free throws with 25.8 seconds left.
That’s when Jenkins took charge for the Pirates (13-1, 11-0), driving to the basket with an easy layup for the game-winner.
“I didn’t have a choice,” said Jenkins, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “The team wasn’t playing and I already know it’s up to me at all times.”
That was true in the first quarter, too, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a commanding 23-7 lead. Jenkins had all seven Pirates points in the first frame.
The Bulldogs took a 48-38 lead going into the fourth quarter until finally the Pirates defense got after the ball a little bit and forced several CP turnovers. It was the only way to stop the Bulldogs, who finished with a 60-percent field goal percentage.
“The thing that I love is that they didn’t panic,” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. “We talked about it at halftime that, one, we’ve been here before and, two, Crown Point is playing a great game and we’re not really making shots. We just had to continue with our pressure and keep moving our feet and stay active with our hands.”
CP led 55-48 with four minutes to go when Merrillville took control of the game.
First, Owens scored his first basket of the game on a drive to the lane, then Zoran Talley (15 points, 4 rebounds) knocked down three straight free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot. After a Bulldogs basket, Jenkins knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 57-56.
Lux said Jenkins just loves the spotlight.
“B.J. was that confident. He’s a gamer,” he said. “I’ve seen that look before; when he had that ball in the wing, he was just so relaxed. He took his time, set his man up and made a great play. He told me before the game and at halftime and before the game was over, ‘I got it.’”
Jenkins said Owens bailed him out on the miss with 38 seconds to go and couldn’t wait to get the ball again with just 25 seconds remaining.
“I thought I was going to hit it… it was going in, it was going in and then it went out but Jamard came and got it,” said Owens, of his missed shot. “Second time around, (my opponent) played me straight up and I just took it.”
Jelani Pruitt added 12 points and six rebounds, while Jake Raspopovich had 10 points and three assists. Bulldogs sophomore Nick Jeffirs recorded 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter.