Boys basketball: Munster rallies to beat Merrillville
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org February 2, 2013 11:24PM
Munster senior Nate Bubash puts up a shot past Merrillville senior Jelani Pruitt during their game at Merrillville High School Friday, February 2, 2013, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:56AM
MERRILLVILLE — Mike Schlotman and a Merrillville player or two got tangled up a few times in some down-time chest bumping in the second half of Munster’s 61-49 victory over Merrillville Saturday.
Nothing serious or untoward, but always a subtle reminder of the Mustangs motto: They don’t back down. Ever. Doesn’t matter if they’re ahead, behind or the score is tied.
And they never buckle under pressure.
The Pirates looked like they were about to topple the Mustangs and their 18-game winning streak (now 19) for a good part of the second half, particularly after they raced out to a seven-point lead.
But the inner calm never left Munster. The Mustangs plodded onward, playing their game, attacking the basket and leaving the ball in the hands of Schlotman, their ultra experienced, extraordinarily competent point guard, who has a resting pulse of a yoga master under the most extreme circumstances.
Scholtman was superb down the stretch, finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
“I feel so comfortable with the ball in his hands,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said.
And for good reason.
Schlotman was the ultimate steadying influence — even after the Pirates jumped ahead 42-35 with two minutes left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Jenkins.
At that point, it looked like anything besides a 12-point loss for Merrillville was possible.
It didn’t take long for the tenor of the game to change.
Munster scored six straight to end the quarter, then took the lead on a bucket inside by Nate Bubash with 6:39 left.
Before the Pirates could get their breath, Munster had run off seven straight points and the game had turned in their favor, particularly after Jake Raspopovich and Jalen Wilbert both picked up their fourth fouls.
Scholtman was never really worried.
“We just wanted to stay poised and find a way to deliver at the finish,” Schlotman said.
The end was the complete opposite for the Pirates, who more or less found a way to miss shots.
They finished 4-of-26 from 3-point range. Taking that many 3-pointers for the Pirates is not healthy, according to Merrillville coach TJ Lux. BJ Jenkins, a 50 percent 3-point shooter, finished 4-of-13, while Zoran Talley, a 36 percent 3-point shooter, was 0-for-5. Raspopovich was 0-for-5 also.
“That was not the trajectory we wanted,” Lux said of his 3-point shooting.
Lux wanted his team to attack the basket and draw fouls, something they did successfully in the first half. Munster tempted the Pirates with the 3-point shots. It worked out well for the Mustangs, who are now 16-0.
Munster was hot early, making 5-of-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter. The Mustangs jumped out to an 11-4 lead after Drew Hackett made his second 3-pointer with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
The Pirates, with the help of some pressure defense, were able to chip away at the lead, pulling to within three when Jenkins hit a 3-pointer with 2:23 left in the first. Merrillville took the lead for the first time when Jenkins scored on lay-up after a Mustangs turnover.
A Craig Dedelow 3-pointer — the last of the half for Munster —gave them a 17-15 first quarter lead.
The Pirates stopped the 3-point parade in the second quarter by getting out on the Mustangs shooters. Munster finished 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the quarter. Merrillville raced out to a seven-point lead on the strength of a 14-5 run. A 3-pointer by Jenkins — his second of the half — gave the Pirates a 29-22 advantage with 3:20 left. Munster was able to cut into the lead by holding Merrillville scoreless over the last 2:20. The half ended with Merrillville ahead 31-25.