MERRILLVILLE | In the last four seconds, BJ Jenkins proved that the Merrillville boys basketball team wasn't looking past Crown Point.
The senior's hand floated the ball acrobatically into the air, and as it fell through the basket, the Times No. 2 Pirates finished a comeback to beat the Bulldogs 60-59.
"We don't look past anyone," Jenkins said. "We learned that last year in sectionals and regionals. Some of the football players learned that last year. We told them 'you can't look past anybody.'"
Merrillville plays state-ranked and Times No. 1 Munster tonight.
The Bulldogs (5-11, 2-9 Duneland Athletic Conference) opened the game seemingly unable to miss a shot. Crown Point was 12-of-18 in the first half to take a 35-21 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs forced turnovers, outrebounded and beat Merrillville down the floor for the first three quarters.
"Crown Point always plays us extremely tough," Pirates coach TJ Lux said. "They played an awesome game tonight, they played fantastic. They couldn't miss a shot, it seemed like. We were struggling to get stops and they did a great job ... then in the second half we were able to apply our pressure and turn them over a little bit. The good thing is our guys just stayed with what we do."
"I think our old maladies reared their ugly heads in the last four minutes. I don't think those first 28 minutes we could have played any better," Crown Point coach Clint Swan said, "then those last four minutes we turned the ball over and gave up a couple of offensive rebounds."
Merrillville started to peck back from its 17-point second-half deficit with 3-pointers and three-point plays. The Pirates had pulled within 10 when the fourth quarter started.
"When we reached 10 points, we knew we could come back," said Jenkins, who scored a team-high 19 points, "we just had to play very hard the whole fourth quarter."
Merrillville (13-1, 11-0) nabbed its first lead, 58-57, with 38.3 seconds remaining when Jamard Owens sunk a layup.
Crown Point's Tom Bardeson, who led his team with 22 points, hit two free throws with 25.8 seconds left to give the Bulldogs its last lead of the game at 59-58.
Nick Jeffirs added 20 points for Crown Point, with 12 in the first quarter. Bret Barclay chipped in 11.
Zoran Talley's 16 points joined Jelani Pruitt's 12 for Merrillville.
The Bulldogs have lost three games this season by one point.
"I'm proud of how we came out in the first half and took the fight to them," Swan said. "We've got to learn how to close these games out. ... I think at the beginning of the year, if we'd had a big lead like that I'd have been bracing myself. Even at the start of the fourth quarter, I felt pretty good, I felt like we were right where we needed to be."