PORTAGE | After struggling in their respective Class 4A Portage Sectional openers, Michigan City and Merrillville left little doubt Friday.
The area's top two teams rolled into tonight's much-anticipated final, the defending champion Wolves (19-3) dispatching LaPorte 54-35 and the Pirates (21-1) running away from Hobart 60-39.
"We were a little tentative Wednesday," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. "We told them when we put them in to be aggressive and they were right away."
Merrillville never trailed, racing to a 21-7 lead after a quarter and leading by double digits the rest of the way.
"Defensively, I was pretty happy," Govert said. "The first time we played them, we didn't get after them. We wanted to make them uncomfortable, switching our defenses up. In order to play, they've got to play defense. They get after it at practice, which makes them better in the game."
Dariyan Morris led the Pirates (21-1) with 13 points, including a stretch of seven straight in the third that crushed any semblance of Hobart momentum. Victoria Gaines chipped in 10.
"We like to play with flow and there was never a flow to the game, but we did a good job keeping our composure and fighting through it," Govert said.
Sophomore Zoe Wilson's 10 points topped Hobart (17-7), which committed 19 turnovers and shot 30 percent.
"They've got a little more experience and they're definitely more confident in a game like this," Brickies coach Mike Hamacher said. "It showed early in the game. They're a great defensive team. They change the way you play. We came out a little tentative, a little scared, and against a team of that caliber, it's going to blow up in a hurry. At least we started competing, but we still didn't play with any composure. Their quickness and athleticism makes you rush."
Merrillville fought foul trouble, had 17 turnovers and made just 11 of 23 free throws, all concerns for tonight.
"The little things are going to determine the game," Govert said.
City was behind LaPorte only once, after the first basket, breaking out to a 24-8 lead with 13 points in a row. The Slicers hit three 3s in the second quarter to briefly get within nine, but could never sustain consistent offense to challenge the Wolves.
"They're a great 3-point shooting team. We did a nice job of taking away their strengths," M.C. coach Mike Megyese said. "I thought we'd have the advantage (inside). (Keshyana) Cooper makes people kind of worry in there."
City more than doubled LaPorte on the boards with Cooper snatching nine and Aubria Smith seven. Toni Collins' 15 points paced four Wolves in double figures.
"We played very unselfish," Megyese said. "We had balanced scoring and when we do that, we're awful tough to beat. It was a nice, solid performance, but it just makes us 2-0."
Michigan City and Merrillville split during the regular season.
"We had to play two good teams that we couldn't overlook," Govert said. "They're high school kids. Anything can happen. We had to make sure they came focused and ready to go, and they did. It's go hard or go home."