CROWN POINT | Crown Point started its run at a second consecutive state championship on the right foot Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Merrillville in the Class 2A Merrillville Sectional opener.
"We played well. We possessed the ball well and dominated the game. We just didn't finish," C.P. coach Mike Bazin said. "At the end of the game, I let them know that can't happen once we get down the road here."
The Times No. 1 Bulldogs (13-1-4) drew first blood with a Carmelo Morales goal on Tod Oram's cross at 6:54.
"It was a good bounce. It came down in stride and I just hit it in the sweet sport," Morales said. "(Oram and I) do it in practice a lot. So, I guess you could say (I was ready for it)."
C.P. got another goal when Martin Mitreski's cross ricocheted off of a Pirate defender and into the goal to make it 2-0.
"(Merrillville goalie Bradley Brack) played very well," Bazin said. "The opportunities that he needed to keep his team in the game, he really did."
Brack finished with 12 saves for the Pirates (4-13-1).
"Crown Point is the defending state champion," Merrillville coach Brian Past said. "I really thought we came out well and had some bad luck right there in the beginning.
"I'm so proud of my guys. We fought to the bitter end."
Past said his team will lose 16 seniors to graduation this year.
"We definitely have a lot to work on, especially on the finishing the side," Bazin said. "But it's good to get this result."
Kankakee Valley (11-7) got an early start on Lowell in the second game and held on to win 8-3. Luis Cazareds notched a goal in the sixth minute. Jacob Smith scored at 8:26 on a give-and-go with Justin Eger to give the Kougars an early 2-0 lead.
Tyler Montgomery scored a rebound goal in the 15th minute. Jose Gomez and Daniel Reyes each scored a pair of goals for Kankakee Valley.
Lowell (1-15) got on the board in the 54th minute with Luke Ison's score. Osvaldo Rosas-Gonzalez scored four minutes later and Ison tallied another less than a minute after that to make it 7-3.
Cazares put his second goal in the net at 64:00 to end the Red Devils comeback attempt.
K.V. will meet Crown Point in the sectional final Saturday at 6 p.m.