MICHIGAN CITY | Merrillville entered Saturday 10-1 in games decided by eight points or less. Good teams do that.
Having a deep-threat weapon like B.J. Jenkins helps.
The 5-foot-11 senior nailed a 3-pointer from outside the area code with three seconds remaining as the Pirates put the lone blemish on Munster's incredible season, 55-52, in the second semifinal game of the Michigan City Regional.
“I didn't really know how far out I was,” Jenkins said. “They gave me some room and I saw the rim.”
Coach T.J. Lux never had a doubt.
“B.J. does some crazy things but at the end of the game, there's no one else you'd rather have on your team,” Lux said. “I have a lot of confidence in our guys. We've played a lot of close games and B.J. has hit so many big shots for us.”
Mike Schlotman's half court shot at the buzzer grazed the rim as hopeful Munster fans moaned in disbelief. He had a game-high 24 points.
It marked the first loss in 26 games for Munster, which had beaten Merrillville 61-49 on Feb. 2.
The Pirates (21-3) advanced to the evening's 4A title game against South Bend Adams (22-2), which eliminated Warsaw 48-46 in the opener.
“We are very hungry and humble,” said Jenkins, certain his team would handle South Bend's unrelenting pressure that night. “We should be good as long as we get our liquids and nutrients.”
Munster's legion of loyal fans paid tribute to their fallen team by gathering outside the locker room and applauding loudly as players and coaches left.
“I told the kids the way the year was going, we'd still be able to tie it and we almost did. Mike's shot had a chance,” said Munster coach Mike Hackett.
“That was a 25-foot bomb (by Jenkins). We kinda knew he was going to shoot but we didn't think he'd pull (up) from 25. That was a big shot for him.”
Hackett praised the producive careers of seniors Schlotman, Nate Bubash and Craig Dedelow but found it difficult to address his team afterward.
“I wasn't prepared to talk to them after a loss," he said. "I'm not used to losing with this team."
Bubash had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Drew Hackett, who slipped while guarding Jenkins on his game-winner, added nine points.
Jenkins led Merrillville with 17 points, including 5-for-8 beyond the arc. Zoran Talley had 12 points.
“What a marvelous season. Being 25-and-0 with the team he had was a heckuva accomplishment by Mike,” Lux said.