LAFAYETTE | Carmel's game plan for Merrillville in Saturday's Class 4A Lafayette Jefferson Semistate was executed to perfection.
Greyhounds coach Scott Heady felt they were able to excel in three crucial areas against the Pirates -- not letting them make any big runs off their press; keeping them out of the lane in the half court; and winning the rebounding battle.
“I thought those three things, we were really consistent with,” he said. “We got a lead and shot it well early.”
Merrillville guard Jake Raspopovich said Carmel was especially hard to defend.
“When we tried to pressure them, they knew where to go with the ball,” he said. “They found the open guys, they drew fouls, they hit 3s, they hit their free throws and they found open layups. When you play a state champion team, you expect a really good team. They had all the experience.”
Flying start: Carmel's James Crowley scored 12 of his co-game-high 22 points in the first quarter, including two of his three 3-pointers. The Greyhounds shot 7 of 11 in the opening eight minutes to open an eight-point leas that would steadily grow from there.
"Not letting their shooters get in a rhythm was priority No. 1," Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. "We lost track of guys. It's frustrating when you know what's coming and it's much more difficult to stop. They don't have a real post-up guy, but they still have ways of getting inside."
Within reach -- again: For Raspopovich and B.J. Jenkins, the loss marked their second flirtation with a state finals appearance this season. They were a quarterback-wide receiver on the Pirates' football team that reached the Class 5A semistate, falling at Fort Wayne Snider.
"It's all the same," Raspopovich said. "It hurts inside, knowing it's our last basketball game. In football, all we needed was a couple more minutes."
Short-circuited: Jenkins led Merrillville with nine points, but shot 3 of 15. Zoran Talley went 2 for 8 and Jelani Pruitt 3 of 10. Raspopovich didn't score, missing his only shot.
"Not sharing the ball like we have hurt," Raspopovich said.
Remember when?: The margin of defeat was Merrillville's worst since losing 81-36 to Valpo on Jan. 6, 2004. That was also the Pirates' last sub-.500 season at 9-12.
"You hope to win every game, but when the day finally comes, you just want to make sure you go out the right way -- playing hard and never giving up until the final buzzer," Lux said. "It's very difficult to fall behind a team like Carmel."
Future Crusader going to state: Clay Yeo, a Valparaiso University recruit, scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in Triton’s 40-32 win over Lafayette Central Catholic in the Class A semistate. Yeo, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, connected on 5-of-11 shots from the field and dished out four assists for the Trojans (20-5). Triton will play Borden next Saturday for the state championship.
Region ties: Derek Moser, a 2006 Highland graduate, is the freshman coach at Carmel.