ST. JOHN | It’s a game they’ll be talking about.
Already a rematch of a close early-season game won by Merrillville, Saturday’s Duneland Athletic Conference game is probably one that both Lake Central and the Pirates would like to run back once more.
It would take a regional berth for both to make it happen, but the capacity crowd inside Lake Central’s gym would welcome a replay.
Featuring a final two minutes filled with close foul calls, clutch shots and very, very untimely turnovers, the game ended with Times No. 2 Merrillville on top 60-57, keeping the Pirates (11-1, 9-0) unbeaten in conference play.
Highlight dunks, dribble moves and 3-pointers were on display, but after three quarters of them there was a 43-43 tie.
With about three minutes left, No. 7 L.C. (8-5, 6-3) began to slow its offensive pace a little. The Indians were up 54-47, and Merrillville had missed its first six free-throw attempts of the fourth quarter.
A stretch of four infuriating plays for both sides shook the game up entering the final 2:02.
A Jelani Pruitt putback was waved off by a loose ball foul on a teammate. Then, as L.C. prepared to inbound the ball, Indian Robert Ryan shoved Zoran Talley for a foul as fans screamed for a technical.
Merrillville traveled, but L.C. fumbled the outlet pass.
Moments later Ryan was hit for an intentional foul as Pruitt broke away with a steal. Pruitt’s free throws cut the lead to 54-53. Jake Raspovich hit two free throws with 1:15 to go to put Merrillville up 55-54.
L.C. point guard Tye Wilburn, whose only other points came in the first quarter, drove the left side and connected for a basket while drawing a foul. His freebie put the Indians up 57-55 with 37.7 ticks left in a game lacking in fouls before the final minutes.
However, with 17.6 to go, Merrillville’s B.J. Jenkins hit a 3-pointer to help the Pirates retake the lead.
Pruitt made a free throw with 5.4 seconds left, and L.C. threw a full-court Hail Mary pass to star center Tyler Wideman down 59-57.
Wideman, who led the Indians with 18 points and 10 rebounds, with three dunks, caught the ball while being triple-teamed, but he traveled while finding his footing.
L.C. coach Dave Milausnic objected and was whistled for a technical.
Raspopovich hit one of the two technical shots to account for the final margin.
Pruitt was a beast early and led the Pirates with 22 points despite 4-of-10 shooting on free throws.
Mike Miklusak had 12 points and three blocks for the Indians.