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Boys basketball: Jake Raspopovich leads Pirates on the court, too

Updated: January 3, 2013 11:08AM



MERRILLVILLE — It doesn’t matter if it’s on grass or the hardwood, Merrillville senior Jake Raspopovich seems to pull all the right strings as one of the leaders on the team.

Saturday night was no exception in his team’s 69-62 Duneland Conference victory over Chesterton at home.

Raspopovich tallied 12 points and recorded a game-high 10 assists as the Pirates improved to 3-0 overall.

“It’s just in his DNA (to be a leader),” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. “That’s just who is he. He knows and understands where to get the ball and is just in control. Who wouldn’t want a guy like that? And he doesn’t have to put up 15-20 points to control the game. He does the little things well.”

Like finding Jelani Pruitt on three of his assists. Pruitt tied Zoran Talley for the points lead with 14 points for the Pirates.

Or dishing out four assists and grabbing two boards in the first quarter as Merrillville jumped out to an 18-10 lead. The outside ability of B.J. Jenkins also had something to do with that too as the senior guard knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first eight minutes. Jenkins finished with 12 points and four assists.

Chesterton coach Tom Peller said his team was playing catch-up all night because of the Pirates’ speed.

“The difference was turnovers,” he said. “We know how well they press and how quick they are and I thought that was the difference in the game; we can’t simulate that quickness in practice and that was the difference right there.

“We just have to learn to slow down at times and the only way to learn that is going through it. You can’t give away possessions and throw away the ball. You have to get good shots on each possession.”

The Trojans (1-1, 0-1) had a strong second quarter thanks to balanced scoring from Matt Holba (13 points, 14 rebounds), Corey Rusboldt (10 points), Cole Teal (12 points) and Chris Palombizio (17 points, 7 rebounds) to cut their halftime deficit to 36-31.

But the Pirates speed took over in the second half as Chesterton trailed by double digits most of the third and fourth quarters.

Teal knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:58 to go making it 63-56, but the Pirates free-throw shooting eventually sealed the victory.

Lux said he wished his veteran team did a better job closing out the win, but knows DAC games can be dogfights on some nights.

“We had a couple good, intense runs that allowed us to keep them at arms length most of the game but we’ve got to be able to finish them off better,” Lux said. “It’s not always going to be so pretty and they’ve got some highly skilled players. Like any Duneland Conference game, it’s going to get ugly and grimy and you just want to come away with a victory.”



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