Boys basketball: Merrillville hold off late Michigan City charge
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org March 1, 2013 11:14PM
Updated: April 3, 2013 6:16AM
MICHIGAN CITY — Michigan City coach John Boyd, sitting in his office after the Wolves lost 66-61 to Merrillville in the semifinals of the Michigan City Sectional, wanted the end to be different.
“Can’t get those guys,” he said to a gaggle of reporters.
Yes, but the Wolves were close — oh, so close.
They were one 14-0 run away from sending the Pirates home early.
And they were a pretty close 3-point shot away from tying Merrillville after a furious fourth-quarter rally.
After a fast-paced, glorious 20 minutes of basketball, in which neither team could get a solid foothold on the lead, the Pirates found the necessary space when they scored 14 straight points.
Trailing 44-42 with just under two minutes left in the third quarter, the Pirates scored a flurry of points in under three minutes.
The Wolves didn’t break the drought until Ryan Taylor made a free throw with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
That was all the Pirates needed to get the win. Getting the finish line, however, wasn’t easy.
The Wolves spent the next seven minutes chasing the Pirates, sending them to the free-throw line and whittling away at the lead.
Merrillville didn’t score a basket in the fourth quarter, making all its points from the free-throw line, where it was 13-of-21.
The Wolves cut the lead to 62-59 with 22.4 left on the clock after a layup by Lucas Dauer. On the next possession, A’Seante Clark stole the inbounds pass from the Pirates, stepped back outside the 3-point line and fired one up. He had a clean look. The ball bounced off the rim and Merrillville covered it.
The Wolves looked like they had one more chance to tie it when Jamard Owens missed two free throws with 8.4 seconds left but the Pirates snuck in and got the rebound off the second miss.
Merrillville survived — but just barely — by getting to the line. The Pirates finished 27-46 from the line.
Merrillville coach TJ Lux was just happy to move on.
“Give them credit,” Lux said of Michigan City. “They played their butts off.”
Valparaiso defeated Chesterton easily in the opening game.
Valparaiso coach Joe Otis, a man who know his history, was quick to point out his career record against LaPorte, Portage and Chesterton in four seasons at Valparaiso.
They are 11-0.
It was no surprise that the Vikings were dominant again Friday in the semifinals of the Michigan City Sectional, socking the Trojans 56-34.
The psychological control Valparaiso has over the Trojans, a talented but at best inconsistent performing team, was evident in the opening few minutes.
Chesterton was tight at tip-off, missing shots while struggling to get into any kind of offensive rhythm.
It was a strain that pretty much dogged them the whole game. The Trojans just never looked good, partially perhaps because Valparaiso defended them well and partially because the Vikings are in their heads.
“I just thought we came out tight,” Chesterton coach Tom Peller said. “We had a different demeanor tonight. It is something we’re going to get over and we’ll have to beat them to do it.”
The Vikings rode the hot hand of Quentin Palmer early (he had nine points in the first half and 15 overall) and the steady hand of super sub Justin Osburn for most of the game. Osburn finished with 11 points and three assists. He was pretty much a calming influence when the ball handling got shaky.
Otis made the Superman comparison with Osburn.
“We should put a cape on him,” he said.
The Vikings put the game away with three straight 3-pointers -one at the end of the third quarter and another to start the fourth quarter.
They were ahead 26-20 when Brody Wilson hit one with 1:05 left in the third. That was followed by an Osburn 3-pointer with 7:38 left and then another one by Wilson on the next possession. That made it 35-20 and Chesterton was broken.