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Girls Basketball: Darian Patton comes up big for Merrillville in regional semifinal

Updated: March 18, 2013 7:14AM



VALPARAISO — It’s not like Merrillville needed a secret weapon, but the Pirates uncovered one against Lake Central in the first game of Saturday’s Valparaiso Regional.

Senior guard Darian Patton — who missed eight games this season with a broken left hand — recorded a career-high 23 points, and added four assists and two steals, fueling a 74-56 win over the Indians (16-8).

The state-ranked No. 3 Pirates (23-1) advanced to Saturday night’s title game against Warsaw, which beat Penn in the second game, 49-42.

Patton, who didn’t play in a 60-41 win over LC Jan. 18, and scored only six points in a 53-42 Merrillville win over the Indians on Dec. 15, played the game of her life.

“Since she’s been back, she has played tremendous basketball,’’ Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. “I don’t know if when kids get hurt if they see things from the sideline like the coaches see, but for the eight games she was out she was always encouraging her teammates. I think being on the sideline and watching us play really helped her a lot. This was by far the best game of her career.’’

Patton couldn’t wait to play when she returned Jan. 31 against Crown Point. The senior broke her hand in the Pirates’ first game with CP, Dec. 21.

“I think I learned a lot just sitting there watching,’’ Patton said. “The last time I played against (LC) I didn’t do too well, so they probably thought I’d do nothing. I was just glad I could help my team win, because Lake Central is a good team and very physical.’’

In addition to Patton’s performance, sophomore Victoria Gaines scored 21 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, thwarting any chance of an LC comeback.

“I think a switch went off with (Victoria) today,’’ Govert said.

Gaines, who was plagued by foul trouble early in the second half, re-entered the game and took over in the first four minutes of the final quarter.

“When my team needs me, I just try and step up,’’ she said. “I tried to get the whole team involved. I think the whole team did great. We kept our composure when they got real close and we fought through.’’

Trailing 37-24 at halftime, LC rallied, trimming a 15-point deficit to three (47-44) in a five-minute span.

“We didn’t play great in the first half, and we knew it, and they easily could have quit,’’ LC coach Marc Urban said. “They just dug in and had a tremendous (third) quarter. I’m just so proud of our girls, and I felt like they fought as hard as they could. And that’s all you can ask.’’

The Indians made 10 of 12 shots in the quarter, rallying behind Jessica Bell, who scored eight of her 13 points in the period and Lindsay Kusbel, who scored seven of her 12.

Tara Zlotkowski scored a team-high 16 to lead LC, which netted24 points in the frame, matching its first-half total.

The fourth period wasn’t so good for LC as it made only two field goals in 10 attempts and scored eight points.

Merrillville scored 12 of the game’s last 14 points — the only LC basket in the final 5:51 came from Megan Krol in the final seconds.

Merrillville outscored LC, 27-12, in the final 10 minutes.

The Pirates made 29 of 51 field goal attempts overall (57 percent) while LC made only 19 of 44 shots.

Even though the Indians’ season ended, Urban led LC to its second sectional title in three years. He returns all of his starters with the exception of Bell.

“I’m very proud of our seniors for laying the foundation for us and showing (everybody) what it takes to get it done,’’ Urban said. “That’s one of the things that I’ll take from this season. Jessica Bell and Jessica DelBovo were great seniors and showed great leadership for us.’’



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