Boys basketball

Wilkins helps Merrillville survive Highland rally in boys hoops action

2013-12-06T21:45:00Z 2013-12-07T23:33:11Z Wilkins helps Merrillville survive Highland rally in boys hoops actionPaul Trembacki Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
December 06, 2013 9:45 pm  • 

HIGHLAND | DJ Wilkins has been there -- close game, Big Ten coach in the stands, teammates depending on experience and instinct to deliver a victory.

He’s done it with a football in his hands but more often with a basketball, and the Merrillville sophomore showed that he can take his extensive AAU experience to the varsity level on Friday night as he asserted himself as the leader of a team that lost nearly 99 percent of its points and minutes from last March’s semistate team.

Wilkins led the way early in what looked like a surefire rout of host Highland, then came up with several clutch defensive plays and free throws as Times No. 4 Merrillville survived a nonconference affair between 0-1 teams to beat Highland 46-43 Friday night.

“It’s all about knowing how to be in the right place at the right time and knowing how to make plays when the team really needs it,” Wilkins said after rebounding Highland’s potential game-winning shot with 2.7 seconds left and then intercepting an inbounds pass to seal the game.

Wilkins, whose skills lured Purdue coach Matt Painter to the gym, led the Pirates with 16 points, including eight with three steals in the first quarter, when Merrillville went up 19-4 with a bevy of fastbreak points and nine total steals. Merrillville (1-1) extended that lead to 21-4 in the first minute of the second period.

The Trojans won each of the final three quarters, forcing Merrillville into 21 turnovers for the game and sending the Pirates to the foul line where they were just 8-for-17 in the second half.

Matt Benninghoff, who missed an open look at a turnabout dance proposal on the video message board to start the game, tied Ben Wood with 11 points to lead the Trojans (0-2).

Wood had three blocks and three assists in the game and was 5-for-6 on free throws in the fourth quarter. He attempted a 3-pointer from the left elbow with about five seconds to go in the game and the Trojans down 45-43. Wood had hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 44-43 with 20.5 seconds remaining.

“Our effort for the last three quarters, with nine seniors, that’s what we expect,” Highland coach Jordan Heckard said. “Now they see this is how we can play all the time. We’re not ones for moral victories, but this shows the level at which we can play. We feel good about how we played, we just wish the outcome were better.”

Highland outscored Merrillville 39-25 after falling behind 21-4.

“We’re finding our way and learning,” Merrillville coach T.J. Lux said. “We have to understand that in varsity basketball it takes intensity for 32 minutes and you’ve got to stay with it every possession.”

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best girls cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News