LAPORTE | A dream came true for Tyler Littlejohn Thursday at Slicer Gym.
The LaPorte guard hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from way beyond the arc to give the Slicers a thrilling 61-59 win over visiting Merrillville.
Merrillville held a 59-58 lead with 0.8 seconds on the clock after the Pirates tipped a pass out of bounds, giving LaPorte one last shot.
Littlejohn responded with the game-winner, his only shot attempt of the game.
"It's always been one of my life's goals and dreams to hit a game-winning shot and get mobbed by my teammates," Littlejohn said. "I first thought the shot was gonna get blocked, then my friend said it seemed like it was going to hit the ceiling. But once I saw it go in, I felt so blessed."
It was Littlejohn's first career game-winning buzzer-beater.
The play had originally been designed as an alley oop for Gage Ott, who had 15 points for LaPorte.
"We had two options, the first was a hard skip to Gage and if that didn't pan out we were going to throw the lob to Tyler," LaPorte coach Tom Wells said. "It was quite a read on Josh Fleming's part and quite a shot by Tyler."
The Slicers started quick, holding a 17-12 lead after one. But the rest of the contest was a sea-saw affair, with Merrillville holding a 29-24 lead at halftime and LaPorte (11-6, 2-3) taking a 44-42 edge heading into the final quarter.
Fleming led all scorers with 20 points.
"Josh put on the gas for 32 minutes and didn't get a break out there," Wells said.
While Fleming and Ott led the way, it was LaPorte's Brian McGuire who provided the team with a lift off the bench, totaling 10 points in the win.
"Josh and Gage always have to be great for us, but we always need that third key," Wells said. "Tonight that was Brian. He had a great week of practice and it paid dividends for us."
"If it weren't for Brian and some of the other guys off the bench, we wouldn't have been in that situation," he said.
D.J. Wilkins led the Merrillville effort with 15 points. Jairus Stevens added 14 for the Pirates.
"We were leery of this game because we know Merrillville is getting better and have lost some close ones this year," Wells said. "They are very athletic and (coach) T.J. (Lux) has them playing at the right speed. I felt we lost our swagger a bit after the holiday tournament, but a finish like tonight is something that could go a long way in building back our confidence."