MERRILLVILLE — If there was instant replay in boys basketball, Times No. 5 Valparaiso and No. 6 Merrillville would've been playing a second overtime.
As it was, an official ruled that Nate Aerts' banked-in 3-pointer from the left wing at the end of the first overtime counted, though video of the Duneland Athletic Conference thriller shows the shot came after the buzzer, and the Vikings escaped with a 57-54 win.
"I didn't really see the clock. I don't really know," Aerts said of the only basket of the OT. "I saw no one was guarding me, so I called for the ball. I think the (Merrillville) guy jumped and I took a dribble. I was just trying to get it off as quickly as possible and it went in. I was hoping it would count and when he said it did, I was happy."
Valpo coach Barak Coolman said he "couldn't really tell" on Aerts' shot, but credited his 6-foot-6 junior wing for wanting to take it after he left a 15-footer short at the end of regulation.
"It's so loud, it's hard to hear," Coolman said. "It was sad for anybody to lose that game. Nate's continued to get better and better. I was glad he wasn't afraid to shoot it. That's what he needs to do."
Merrillville coach T.J. Lux referred to video of the shot.
"I don't think it's a matter of opinion," Lux said. "It was definitely late. Everybody knows it was late. That's part of the game. There's stuff happening we can't control. For the game to end like that, the kids didn't get to decide it."
The Pirates (10-7, 3-1) had the ball in the final minute of 54-54 game but Johnny Bernard was called for an offensive foul with 9.1 seconds left. Merrillville knocked the ball out of bounds with 1.2 left before Aerts' sideline inbounds pass from near midcourt came back to him.
"In tough times, we stayed together," said Aerts, who scored 22 points. "We didn't let the moment get too big. We stayed calm and composed, which helped down the stretch."