Boys basketball: Portage lets upset chance slip away
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent January 4, 2013 11:26PM
Merrillville's Darion Williams knocks the ball away from Portage's Jordan Collazo in the first quarter at Portage High School Friday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 6, 2013 6:13AM
PORTAGE — Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
Once again, mistakes by Portage while handling the basketball ended up costing the Indians in the final minutes of a game.
After the third quarter, the Indians held a two-point advantage over visiting Merrillville. But eight turnovers in the final period — including one on each of the Indians’ first five possessions — helped the Pirates rebound for a 58-44 victory.
“We just turned the ball over too many times in the fourth quarter and they took advantage of it,” Portage (7-5, 2-4 DAC) head coach Rick Snodgrass said. “Their quickness wore us down a little bit. We made some very poor decisions and that’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”
It was an aggressive Merrillville (9-1, 7-0 DAC) defense that forced Portage into many of those mistakes.
“We just got a good handle on what we were trying to do defensively,” Merrillville head coach TJ Lux said. “We played a few different defenses in the first three quarters and in the fourth quarter we settled into a defense that we were comfortable in. We did a much better job in the fourth quarter; they had no free looks.”
The Pirates held a slim 30-26 halftime lead before Portage took control in the third quarter. The Indians went 5-for-5 from the floor in the period, outscoring Merrillville 15-9 and taking a two-point lead into the fourth.
“We made better passes and knocked down shots,” Snodgrass said. “It was a good quarter. But basketball is a game of runs. We had a good run in the third quarter and Merrillville had a good run in the fourth quarter.”
It was Jelani Pruitt and Zoran Talley, in particular, who keyed Merrillville’s comeback. Pruitt scored six quick points, part of his team-high 17, sparking an 8-0 run that put the Pirates ahead for good. Talley added eight more points in the game’s closing minutes, preventing a Portage comeback.
“It was those two guys who needed to be more aggressive,” Lux said of Pruitt and Talley. “We talked about that at halftime; about their defensive responsibilities. Jelani had a nice little stretch on the bench to think about it. But he’s a tough-minded kid and he responded very well.”
After not missing a shot in the third quarter, Portage did not make a field goal in the final period, going 0-for-2 from the field. Jordan Simpson finished the night with 22 points, but was held to two fourth-quarter points on a pair of free throws.