MERRILLVILLE | The last time that Merrillville and Chesterton met in Duneland Athletic Conference girls basketball action, the Pirates needed a two-minute stretch late in the third quarter to pull away from the pesky Trojans.
On Tuesday, Merrillville took that scoring bonanza late in the first quarter with a 25-0 lead en route to a 69-52 win over Chesterton that gave the Pirates at least a share of the DAC crown.
The final three quarters of the game, however, made Merrillville coach Amy Govert cringe.
"In the first quarter we all looked like all-stars," Govert said, "but we have to remember that the game is four quarters long."
The Pirates were buoyed in part by a pair of 3s from senior Dariyan Morris through a span of 1 minute, 43 seconds in which they scored a quick 12 points. Morris netted 12 of her 16 points in the first quarter.
Chesterton's Caroline Puntillo scored a game-high 22 points, 20 of those coming in the second half.
The Trojans shot 8 percent in the first quarter, and followed that with 54 percent in the second quarter as Merrillville took a 41-16 lead into halftime. Chesterton scored the final six points of the first half and finished shooting 37 percent for the game.
"We told our kids to forget about the score," Chesterton coach Jack Campbell said. "We can play when we can get ourselves under control.
"That was the mark of a good defensive team. They made us play faster than we were used to."
Merrillville forced 13 Chesterton turnovers in the first half, then the Pirates committed 14 in the second half.
Chesterton out-scored Merrillville 20-13 in the fourth quarter, as Puntillo shot 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.
"We got out-hustled for three quarters, and that's a lack of effort," Govert said. "They looked at the scoreboard, and we were up 25 and thought, 'we don't have to do anything,' so they turned the ball over."
Victoria Gaines chipped in 13 points for Merrillville, as Jaz Talley added 11, and AJ Downs had 10. Sarah Richards scored 10 points for the Trojans.
The Pirates (18-0, 12-0) have won 39 consecutive regular-season games, while the Trojans (4-13, 2-19) have lost seven in a row and haven't won since the start of the new year.
"If we play like that again, it's going to be a quick exit to the postseason," Govert said.