MICHIGAN CITY | It took longer than most expected, but when it came, it was swift and decisive.
Locked in a tie game with Hobart, Merrillville was finally able to put together the run it needed to separate itself from the dogged Brickies.
Zoran Talley book-ended 3s in a 11-0 surge that propelled the Pirates to a 60-39 victory Thursday in the Class 4A Michigan City Sectional.
In a rugged second game, the host Wolves turned a five-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead and pulled away from Crown Point, 69-54.
"Hobart did a good job being patient, spreading us out, trying to make it a low-possession game," Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. "The bottom line was we couldn't make shots. We turned them over plenty. We just weren't very patient on offense the first half and settled for bad shots. The second half, we just stayed with it defensively and sooner or later, the shots dropped."
The Brickies (5-16) tied the game at 25 on an and-one by promising sophomore Juan Lamar midway through the third, but it was all downhill from there. Up nine after three, the Pirates (18-3) quickly pushed the margin to 18.
"At first, they were basically doing what they wanted to do," Talley said. "We had to pick up the intensity on defense, turn them over and get some transition points. I was confident feeling confident with my shot. We've got 11 seniors. We don't want to go home. We want to keep playing."
Merrillville struggled shooting for 24 minutes, save for Talley, before a 9-for-10 fourth quarter. Talley finished with 22 points, including five 3s and 8-of-13 shooting.
"Thank goodness for Zoran," Lux said. "He had good balance, inside out."
Hobart was done in by 24 turnovers.
"At 25-25, I really felt we had a chance," Hobart coach Mike Black said. "As soon as it got nine, I knew we were in trouble. I'm proud of our guys. They didn't back down. Ultimately, they bought in to what we were trying to do and, other than the turnovers, we executed fairly well for 20 minutes. Then the wheels came off and a lot of credit for that goes to (Merrillville's) pressure."
Lamar led Hobart with 15 points.
Darion Williams scored all 11 of his points in the second half for Merrillville, which got another 10 from B.J. Jenkins on an off night. Jenkins came up with five of the Pirates' 15 steals.
In the second game, C.P. led 31-26 at the half behind 21 points by Tom Bardeson, but was outscored 27-12 in the third quarter. City (10-11) was up two in the third quarter when the tide took a pivotal swing. Ryan Taylor's three-point play that prompted a technical foul on Bulldogs coach Clint Swan and he hit both free throws to push the score to 46-39. Crown Point (5-16) never got any closer.
"It snowballed in a hurry," Swan said. "It was like the perfect storm. Tommy got his third foul, I got the technical foul, the fouls accumulated quickly and it was hard for us to get the ball back. ... As a team, we just missed a ton of shots and they made their free throws. Did I mention that?"
Taylor scored 12 of his 29 points in the third quarter and hit 16-of-17 foul shots, including all 10 in the fourth.
"We didn't think there was anybody who could guard him at his size (6-6)," Wolves coach John Boyd said. "We thought with our depth, we could keep pushing the tempo with our speed and try to wear them down. (Bardeson)'s a heck of a ball player. We just put a lot of quickness on him and thought we could wear him down."
Bardeson finished with 28 points and six steals.
"I thought he played probably his best game of the season," Swan said. "We just didn't get him any help offensively."