CROWN POINT | For Merrillville to sweep its season and become the first unbeaten girls basketball team in the region since 2003, it took until the last 34 seconds before the Pirates could breathe that sigh of relief.
Merrillville freshman Victoria Gaines scored the final six points of the game to give the Pirates a 63-55 win over Crown Point and a 20-0 season.
"Everybody plans to win every game, but we felt like this is going to be a good team this year and this is a good accomplishment to be the first Merrillville team," said Merrillville senior Raveen Murray, who scored a team-high 18 points. "It feels pretty good to be a part of that."
The Pirates led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter before Crown Point went on a 9-0 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth.
Courtney Kvachkoff led Crown Point and all scorers with 19 points and Michaela Prough scored 11 points and nabbed 10 rebounds.
"To be down two points with 34 seconds to go, we sent a nice message," Crown Point coach Annie Equihua said. "I'm proud of these girls, absolutely proud of them."
Merrillville grabbed the lead at 10-9 with just less than a minute to go in the first quarter and though Crown Point pulled within two points late, the Pirates never relinquished the lead.
"This is good for us going into the postseason, because this is going to happen: You'll have games where everything goes against you and we can't control some things and that happened tonight," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said.
Gaines scored 12 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter and had eight of those points from the free-throw line. She sat for a portion of the fourth quarter with four fouls and after missing a layup after a steal.
"She missed that layup and we said, 'you're going to get another chance,' and she was like, 'OK,' which is great for a freshman," Govert said. "She was huge for us late."
Darian Patton chipped in 10 points for the Pirates (20-0, 14-0 DAC) and Kendall Brown had seven assists for the Bulldogs (12-8, 9-5).
"Every game this year wasn't an easy game, so you have to put up a fight," Murray said.