MICHIGAN CITY | One foul was called. One foul was not.
That was the difference Tuesday night in the opening game of the Class 4A Michigan City Sectional as Merrillville edged Valparaiso 44-43.
The Pirates' John Mosley made the first of two free throws with two seconds remaining. Mosley had grabbed a rebound off a missed layup by B.J. Jenkins, as Merrillville had possession the final 1:17 with the score tied.
Mosley was fouled on the floor by Valpo's Tyler Doane. After a Valpo rebound and timeout with 1.7 seconds remaining, Doane caught a long pass at the other end of the floor and was roughed up by a couple Pirates but no foul was called, much to the dismay of Vikings coach Joe Otis.
"If you call that foul with two seconds left, you have to call the other one with one second left," Otis said.
The Pirates (13-8) advance to face Chesterton (9-12), which dominated Crown Point in the nightcap, 83-57.
Merrillville, which trailed by 10 early in the third quarter, was led by Jenkins' 17 points and Zoran Talley with 12. It was the first sectional win for new Pirates coach T.J. Lux.
"We picked up the energy and intensity," Lux said of the comeback. "Valpo's style is so methodic and they do a good job of sitting back in the zone. We had a bunch of shots just bounce out in the first half.
"After we got down, we became clearly focused and started executing well."
Valpo's Zach Meyer, who scored 11 points, hit a 3-pointer and scored on a putback with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter to give the Vikes a 27-17 lead. Valpo had led 20-15 at the break and 32-29 going into the fourth quarter.
But the Pirates tied it at 32-32 on a Mosley bucket in the paint, and took their first lead since early in the game on a Jake Raspopovich drive. Jenkins gave Merrillville its biggest lead at 41-36 with 2:50 remaining.
Valpo's Drew Boetel tied on a 3-point play with 1:17 remaining, drawing a foul on Raspopovich and making the subsequent free throw. The Vikings then chose to let the Pirates play for the final shot, and Lux called a timeout with 19.4 seconds remaining to set up the final play.
"We had Drew in foul trouble and we couldn't afford to lose him so I thought we'd take our chances," Otis said.
John Mosser led Valpo (12-9) with 12 points and five rebounds, while Boetel and his brother Bret each finished with seven.
In the second game, Chesterton used a 12-2 run at the end of the first half to take a 36-28 lead at the break. Then the Trojans started the second half with a 17-3 run to blitz the Bulldogs (11-10).
Sophomore Cole Teal scored 27 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Trojans, who had just beaten C.P., 46-45, on Friday. Kemonte Price added 18 points, Chris Palombizio 13 and K.J. Zelenika 10.
"We just shot the ball real well," Chesterton coach Tom Peller said. "Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We played good defense and shot the ball well.
"We talked about not playing conservative and building on the lead after halftime. It's a mentality and the guys believed in it."
Tom Bardeson scored 18 points for C.P. while Zach Plesac had 14 points and five steals.