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Girls basketball: Despite struggles, Merrillville just misses pulling off regional title victory

Merillville's Dariyan Morris puts her head her jersey as she walks off court Valparaiso High School Saturday February 16 2013.

Merillville's Dariyan Morris puts her head in her jersey as she walks off the court at Valparaiso High School on Saturday, February 16, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 18, 2013 7:14AM



VALPARAISO — They still had a chance.

As the game entered its final minute, Merrillville was still alive in its regional championship matchup with Warsaw. With the score tied at 40, senior Dariyan Morris hit one of two free throws to move the Pirates ahead by one.

On Warsaw’s next possession, an initial shot from Nikki Grose was off the mark. But Tigers guard Melanie Holladay snuck into the paint for the rebound and banked it in a layup for the deciding points in Warsaw’s 42-41 victory over Merrillville (23-2).

“If we’d got that rebound, they would’ve had to foul us … we were about 20 seconds from getting out of here,” said Merrillville coach Amy Govert. “Despite us not playing well, we still almost escaped. But we didn’t box out. That’s on us.”

“It’s a tough loss … something I’ll remember for a long time,” Morris said of her final high school game. “We had to play our game, we knew we had it in us.”

The Pirates did have a chance to answer on their next possession, but Morris’ shot missed, and Warsaw (24-1) hauled in the rebound with just two seconds left.

Said Govert: “We had a look; that’s all you can ask for. We got a shot off.”

After Grose missed her free throw on the other end, Darian Patton rebounded, took a few steps, then launched a desperation heave that fell short. There was contact after the release, as Patton appeared to be undercut by a Warsaw defender. But no foul was called, and the Warsaw bench erupted in celebration.

“We just couldn’t get anything going tonight,” said Govert, who did not pin the loss on that one no-call. “It’s tough on the kids; they know they didn’t play their best. But it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”

For the only time this season, the Pirates did not make a 3-pointer, going 0-for-13 from behind the arc.

“I wasn’t the only one shooting 3s but they just weren’t falling for me, even when they weren’t pressuring me,” said Morris, who scored 10 points despite missing all seven of her 3-point attempts.

Victoria Gaines led the Pirates’ offense with 21 points and seven rebounds and her defense was crucial in limiting Warsaw’s leading scorer, Jennifer Walker-Crawford, in the fourth quarter. Gaines held the Warsaw senior to just one point in the final frame after she’d scored 18 in the previous three.

Said Govert: “We needed to get some stops in there; she was getting shots whenever she wanted.”

The Pirates committed 14 turnovers and shot just 65 percent (11-for-17) on free throws in the loss.



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