MICHIGAN CITY | South Bend Adams has one player over 6-foot-2, loves to jack up shots, and makes a sinus headache inviting compared to the extreme pressure it puts on opponents.
"They're going to be all over us," Merrillville coach T.J. Lux acknowledged before Saturday night's 4A Michigan City Regional title game.
"We talked about mental toughness all year. There's no better-conditioned team than us."
The Eagles were better rested after escaping gutsy Warsaw 48-46 in the opener, while Lux's Pirates upset previously-unbeaten Munster 55-52 in Game 2 thanks to a B.J. Jenkins 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds remaining.
"If you saw how much we run at practice," Jenkins said before tipoff, backing up his coach's conditioning claim.
Merrillville proved it by running South Bend Adams out of the gym, 76-55, for its first regional title since 2003.
"It means everything to the program," coach T.J. Lux said of his biggest win yet. "You could write a story on how this group came together, the progress and growth we made as a team.
"One reason I took this job is because I had so many wonderful experiences and to have these kids enjoy the same experiences means so much to me."
Adams (22-3) was riding a 10-game win streak and chasing only its second regional title since 1973.
On the back of players' warmups and fans' T-shirts was the slogan: "We're Not Done."
Merrillville (22-3) captured its seventh regional title and was led by Jelani Pruitt and Zoran Talley with 20 points apiece. B.J. Jenkins had 16.
"We just stuck to our game plan," Pruitt said. "Control the tempo, slow them down because they're a very fast team, and box out."
Fans were expecting racehorse basketball in the title game and got a region blowout instead.
The Eagles attempted 21 three-pointers against Warsaw and advanced despite shooting 5-of-15 at the line. Their pressure defense, however, forced 16 turnovers leading to 16 points.
Merrillville also made Munster pay dearly for its 15 turnovers, scoring 13 points.
A 19-6 second quarter blitz, sparked by Zoran Talley's 10 points, gave Merrillville a surprising 42-26 halftime lead over the explosive Eagles.
The Pirates' 19-9 resounding advantage was no surprise with 6-4 Jelani Pruitt grabbing nine by the break.