MERRILLVILLE | It's either going to be a Gremlin or a Cadillac. It's a lock. And a key.
The Hackett family went to the UIC-Loyola game on Jan. 16. Munster sophomore Drew Hackett spent time before and after the game in UIC's locker room.
After the Flames' two-point win, the family was invited into UIC's locker room and the 6-foot-1 guard was offered a scholarship.
“It was a very proud moment,” Munster coach Mike Hackett said of his son's opportunity before Saturday night's game at Merrillville.
When Drew was a young baller, his father told him if he got a hoops scholarship he would buy the lad a car. On the drive home from Chicago, Drew brought up the auto offer.
“I told him he had to sign first,” Mike Hackett joked. “And it probably won't be the car that he wants.”
A lot-full of cars were at Merrillville as The Times No. 1 Mustangs took on the No. 2 Pirates. The gym was packed as the state's No. 4 and 8 teams in Class 4A squared off in what is becoming one of the region's best rivalries.
And, of course, Munster is No. 1 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association's single-class state poll.
“We have to play our game,” Mike Hackett said before the game. “We have to play it at our pace, take care of the basketball and hit some shots.
“The nature of their team is a little more athletic than what we usually see with great length and quickness.”
Munster beat the Pirates 61-49 as the 'Stangs played a remarkable second half, led by their other D-I guard Mike Schlotman and a late-coming Nate Bubash.
But it was Hackett's 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave his team their first lead in the fourth quarter at 47-44. Munster (19-0) outscored the Pirates (13-2) 20-7 to end the white knuckles in the gym.
Bubash, who was hamstrung by Merrillville's defense for three quarters, scored six points in the fourth and gave his team a big presence in the post.
With the Mustangs win, they won the unofficial Duneland Athletic Conference title, going 5-0 against the DAC this season.
Schlotman led Munster with 17 points, Bubash scored 14, Luke Wuchenich had 10 and Hackett scored nine.
And will likely be cashing in on a new car, too.
Merrillville led 31-28 at halftime with B.J. Jenkins scoring 12 and Jelani Pruitt scoring 11.
Munster hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter with Wuchenich hitting one, Hackett hitting two and Schlotman hitting the other.
But the Bucs picked up the defense in the second quarter, getting a hand in the face of the Munster shooters on the perimeter.
Munster had 12 turnovers at the half and Merrillville led 8-2 in points off turnovers at the break.
“This game for our kids is about respect,” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said before the game. “It's a grind playing in the (DAC)'s double round-robin. We have a lot of very good teams in our conference and we have to play them every week. For our guys to get the respect we have to go out there and take it.”
Jenkins had a game-high 22 points. Pruitt had 15 points and six rebounds.