MICHIGAN CITY | Three-point shooting has not been a strong point for Valparaiso this season.
Friday's Class 4A Michigan City Sectional semifinal was quite the exception.
The Vikings (14-8), who came in hitting just 31.5 percent from the arc, sizzled from downtown, connecting on 10-of-17 treys to burn Crown Point 61-45.
A monster first half carried Merrillville (21-1) to a 70-51 rout of the host Wolves in the opener.
"We haven't shot that good all season, but we were due for that," said Jay Doane, who drilled 4-of-5 long balls. "We've been shooting well in practice, and it carried over to the game. I was feeling it. Once I hit the first one, it seemed like everything was going to go in. And my teammates were all making them, too."
Adam Butterfield (17 points), Jerrick Suiter (12) and John Clymer all canned a pair of treys for Valpo, which also went 13-of-14 at the foul line to steady itself late.
"Jay's done that three, four times this year," Valpo coach Joe Otis said. "We decided to go with a smaller lineup, because he's dangerous, and Jerrick's so strong, he can handle (Jared) Smoot."
Valpo used a diamond-and-one defense, the brainchild of assistant Brent Kimmel, hounding C.P. star Spike Albrecht with Bryon Duncan and Brent Hill. Albrecht managed 17 points, one less than Sean Crary, who hit four 3s in a fourth-quarter barrage when the Bulldogs (18-4) cranked up the pressure to briefly whittle the deficit to nine.
"Maybe we went to that a little too late," Crown Point coach Clint Swan said. "We couldn't get anything below the free-throw line extended. We had a hard time getting it inside to Jared and a hard time getting second shots. (Valpo) covered up a lot of holes with their help, which forced us to take some tough shots. (Their shooting) was a big difference. By the same token, we could've done some things a lot better."
In the other semifinal, Michigan City (12-10) missed its first nine shots and went nearly seven minutes before scoring a basket to fall behind 12-1.
Up seven in the second quarter, Merrillville erupted for 17 unanswered points, touched off by back-to-back 3s by Josh Hogan, to roll up a 34-10 lead. The Pirates snagged five steals in the pivotal period.
"I thought our energy and enthusiasm to start the game was vital to us," Merrillville coach Jim East said. "We wanted to try to send a message that we came to play basketball. I don't think either (previous) game, we played as well as we could, honestly, and we gave them the impression they could play with us. Bottom line, they never really threatened us."
Jeremiah Jones led Merrillville with 18 points, followed by Brandon Clark's 14. Hogan registered his 13 all in the decisive first half.
"We were ready to go from the get-go," Hogan said. "We knew it was a big challenge, playing Michigan City here, and we came out aggressive. I got a couple good looks, and I knocked them down with confidence. We just kept pushing, kept attacking."
The Pirates went 31-of-40 at the line, including 16-of-21 in a testy fourth quarter when play became very physical.
"At some point in time, it bothers you when they allow them to play that way," said East, who exchanged words with M.C. coach John Boyd. "I'll leave it at that."