Girls basketball: Dariyan Morris is Merrillville’s fearless leader
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent February 11, 2013 11:06PM
Merrillville's Dariyan Morris shoots past Michigan City's Aubria Clifton (left) and Dejania Evans (right) during the Portage girls basketball sectional finals game held at Portage High School on Saturday February 9, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:26AM
MERRILLVILLE — The old adage about good things coming in small packages definitely applies to Dariyan Morris.
Merrillville’s diminutive 5-foot-3 senior guard might be small in stature, but her game is always rising to new heights.
Last year, when Pirates’ star Raveen Murray graduated, Merrillville coach Amy Govert needed someone to pick up the scoring slack and assume a leadership role.
“We always have meetings after the season and talk to them about expectations,’’ Govert said. “As a senior, those expectations are even higher and there’s more pressure. Dariyan has handled it all very well. She’s exceeded what I thought she would do.’’
Morris has definitely taken her game to another level.
After averaging 11 points per game last year, she’s averaging 15.6.
She’s made 40 3-point baskets (39 percent) which ranks second all-time in school history for a single season.
Her steals (4.0), rebounds (3.6) and assists (2.8) are all up and she’s converted 52.7 percent of her shots.
“I think the season has gone very well so far,’’ said Morris, who leads the Pirates (22-1) into Saturday’s Valparaiso Regional against Lake Central (16-7).
“I’m very proud of us winning sectional, but we have work to do. We’ve reached our goals of winning the DAC and sectional, but we have other goals.’’
Those goals, obviously, start with beating LC for the third time this season.
“That’s a tough opponent,’’ Morris said. “We have to be prepared and ready to play.’’
While Morris improved her scoring nearly five points per game, she’s provided good leadership, too.
“Being a senior, there’s been a lot of pressure,’’ she said. “There are a lot of jobs and things you’re responsible for and have to take care of. I focus on bringing intensity to our practices, showing the underclassmen the right way to do things and being a good role model for them.’’
When asked if she thought she’s done that, Morris smiled.
“I feel like I have,’’ she said. “I’m trying to be a good leader.’’
On top of her leadership, Morris continues to be a gigantic headache for opponents.
“I love that she has no fear,’’ Govert said. “Dariyan plays a lot bigger than she is. We always preach having short-term memories regarding the last play. We want them to forget about the last play and concentrate on the next one. She’s always ready to make the next play. That’s what makes her so good.
“She’s not just one-dimensional. She effects the game on both ends of the court. She’s got such a quick trigger.’’
Take the sectional title game against the Wolves, for example.
“Michigan City had some momentum and she just comes down and sticks a three to tie it in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth game,’’ Govert said. “We never lost the lead again. She’s always ready to step up and isn’t afraid to make those big plays. She’s just fearless.
She’s impacted every game we’ve played in some way. She’s just playing with a lot of confidence right now.’’
Quiet and very humble, Morris has still managed to become a better leader.
On the bench with two fouls in the sectional game, the Pirates were’n’t playing well, so Govert called timeout.
“After coach talked to them, I said we needed to pick it up and fix our mistakes,’’ Morris said. “I told everyone we’ve worked too hard and want it too bad not to do it.’’
Morris is quick to point out she gives herself pep talks, too.
“I try to fix my mistakes, play good defense and improve my (on-the-court) IQ,’’ she said.
Morris hasn’t received any offers to play at the next level yet, but she isn’t concerned at this point.
“My coaches tell me I have the potential if I just put my mind to it and work hard, I can get wherever I want to be,’’ she said.
For now, though, Morris and her teammates know what they want to do.
“I don’t want to regret anything,’’ she said. “I just want to leave here satisfied.’’