MERRILLVILLE | Imagine a demolition derby as two of the biggest cars, with pedals to the metal, bang into each other nonstop while bouncing off the guard rails.
That could be Times' No. 2 Merrillville and No. 7 Lake Central, a pair of early favorites, in this year's Duneland Athletic Conference race.
The Pirates have 12 seniors on the roster. Of Lake Central's 10 top players, seven are juniors.
That may have contributed to Friday night's emotional 73-67 win by the Pirates, who overcame 20 turnovers and 15-of-26 foul shooting.
"Obviously, I don't know how to (control my emotions) because I was ejected," said Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic, who got the heave-ho at 4:16 of the fourth quarter with his team trailing 59-52.
"The majority of the time, I was really proud of our kids for battling. They're scrapping and clawing for me. Merrillville is a good team with 12 seniors with well-defined roles and we're still working on that."
B.J. Jenkins, among the region's most exciting players, led Merrillville (6-1, 4-0) with 24 points and shot 5-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Jelani Pruitt went nose to nose with L.C.'s 6-foot-7 Tyler Wideman, adding 22 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Zoran Talley had 10 points.
Wideman was in foul trouble early but still managed 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Indians (3-3, 2-2). Tye Wilburn chipped in 16 points and Mike Miklusak had 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
"It was a good beating (I took)," said the 6-4 Pruitt, a sneaky lefty in the paint. "Just go hard to the basket, don't fade away or back off. I couldn't let (Wideman) block my shot.
"I used my shot fake a lot and most of his fouls were against me."
Merrillville ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 48-43 despite eight turnovers, and was up by 15 points, 67-52, late in the fourth.
"Lake Central put a lot of pressure on us and took us out of our offense," coach T.J. Lux said. "Bottom line, we made plays.
"We've got almost everybody back from last year. There's a quiet confidence among the guys."