Girls basketball: Merrillville has to rally to avoid upset
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent December 21, 2012 11:26PM
Merrillville's Victoria Gaines puts up a shot between Crown Point's Katija Tarailo and Rachel Honaker during the second quarter on Friday, in Crown Point. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2013 6:13AM
CROWN POINT — Myranda Harris was trying to get pumped up before Merrillville’s game with rival Crown Point, but her exuberance wasn’t returned by her teammates.
“I was really excited about the game tonight and I was trying to get hyped up for it,’’ Harris said. “I was jumping around and nobody else was, so I just tried to bring that energy out on the court with me.’’
The junior definitely brought an abundance of energy to the slow-starting Pirates, who trailed the entire first half before rallying in the final two periods for a 59-52 Duneland Athletic Conference win over the inspired Bulldogs (3-10, 1-6) on Friday night.
Harris, who scored 11 of her career-high 15 points in the second half, came up with three huge steals in the final quarter to help Merrillville avoid what surely would have been a shocking upset loss.
Instead, it was the 32nd straight regular season win for the Pirates (11-0, 7-0) who won their 22nd consecutive league game in the process.
“Myranda did a fabulous job for us tonight,’’ said Merrillville assistant coach Darcie Johnston, who handled the postgame interviews.
“She really showed up to play. She had three or four steals for us in the fourth quarter. Those steals were definitely key to us finishing the game. Her effort is always 100 percent. She plays hard and doesn’t make excuses. She always wants to play and get better.’’
Harris said she knew she had to “step up for my team” when Darian Patton hurt her left hand early in the game.
“That was a confidence-booster for me, especially since I’ve been having a lot of rough games lately,’’ she said.
Dariyan Morris scored a game-high 17 points — 15 of them in the second half — to lead the Pirates, while Victoria Gaines added 14.
Crown Point led 17-9 after one quarter and 25-22 at halftime, before the Pirates used their press to create turnovers and get their sluggish offense rolling.
“We seem to always pick it up a little bit when we start to press,’’ Johnston said.
Merrillville built a 55-45 lead, but CP never quit, cutting the deficit to 55-52 on a basket by Sarah Rivich with just over a minute eft. They never got closer.
“I’m so proud of them,’’ CP coach Annie Equihua said. “I’m proud of how they came out strong and how hard they battled. They never lost focus. Even when they got down (10 points) they didn’t quit fighting.
“We told them ‘you can play with these teams. The time is now. You’re no longer freshmen and sophomores.’ Tonight, they played with more heart and desire. They didn’t give up and they believed in themselves.’’