LAFAYETTE | There just wasn’t much Merrillville could do to get catch up against the Class 4A defending state champion Carmel on Saturday in the Crawley Center at Lafayette Jeff.
The Pirates’ incredible tournament run came to a screeching halt in a 66-36 loss to the streaking Greyhounds (24-3).
Carmel closed the first quarter of the Class 4A semistate with an 11-3 run to take a 19-11 lead at the first stop.
“The emotion of the game got us in the beginning,” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. “The things that we rely on -- our defense and our ability to share the basketball and be patient on offense -- we just weren’t able to execute those things.
“It’s very difficult to fall behind to a team like Carmel and try to play catch-up the whole game.”
Carmel shot a blistering 57 percent from the field in the first half, including 4-of-9 3-pointers that helped it open up a 28-12 lead late in the second quarter.
The Pirates (22-4) got on track late in the first half and a 3-point play by Jelani Pruitt and two foul shots from Jalen Wilbert helped them close to within 30-17 at the half.
Carmel coach Scott Heady thought his team’s start to the third quarter was a big lift.
“We extended our lead and were able to spread the floor the rest of the half and get to the free throw line,” he said.
The Pirates scored just six points in the third quarter as the Greyhounds built an insurmountable 43-21 lead with eight minutes left.
“They’re the defending state champion for a reason,” Lux said. “They’re where they’re at for a reason. They’re an excellent, excellent ball club. Congratulations to them. They did a great job.”
Merrillville didn’t let the disappointing night spoil what they’d accomplished all season.
“We worked so hard and we gave it our all because we really wanted it this season,” said Pruitt, who finished with seven points and five rebounds. “I know it’s unfortunate to lose in the semistate, but I’m also proud of my team and I love my team. I’ll always love my team.”
B.J. Jenkins led the Pirates with nine points. James Crowley and Michael Volovic both pumped in 22 points for Carmel.
“We just did not play as well as we could play,” Lux said. “The defensive breakdowns killed us in the beginning of the game. Their shooters got into a rhythm and that’s priority No. 1 when you play against them.”