MERRILLVILLE | Winning isn't always easy. But that doesn't mean it can't be fun.
Times No. 3 Merrillville turned what could've been a terrible night into a good time in its 75-52 win over Highland.
"It was fun," senior Zoran Talley said. "The environment was real energized. Basically, when the crowd's into it, we get more hyped up."
The environment was helped by what seemed like continuous Pirate dunks on fast breaks.
"(Merrillville) made some adjustments on their press and they're obviously extremely athletic," Highland coach Jordan Heckard said. "Their pressure kind of got us out of the flow on offense. We haven't seen anybody that athletic, yet."
Highland (0-2) had the Pirates against the ropes early. Tommy Brankin's three 3-pointers in the first quarter had the Trojans up 18-9 after the first frame. The Highland bench erupted as the first buzzer sounded.
"(Highland) came out really well and shot the ball extremely well," Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. "All the credit to them."
The Merrillville press quickly got things back in their favor with a string of steals that resulted in Jelani Pruitt jams and brought the home crowd back into it. The Pirates (2-0) outscored Highland 21-11 in the second quarter and led 30-29 at the break.
The third quarter started much like the first, with a pair of Brankin 3-pointers to give the Trojans the lead.
"We've got a veteran group of kids. Being down double digits is nothing new for them," Lux said. "We stuck with it, picked up the intensity and started to kind of get back the tempo that we're looking for."
A couple of Talley fast break dunks changed the momentum and by the end of the period Merrillville was up 52-39.
"We had to pick up the intensity," Talley said. "At halftime, (coach Lux) told us to pick it up, so we came out in the third quarter with more intensity and took the game over."
Talley led all scorers with 26 points while Pruitt added 16 and eight rebounds. Brankin paced Highland with 23.