MERRILLVILLE | Merrillville's game requires speed, adrenaline and a little thievery.
When the girls basketball team tried to score against Crown Point by setting up a play, the Pirates saw shot after shot after shot hit the rim and slide away, or just miss completely.
"When we get the steals, we make sure to finish," Merrillville guard Dariyan Morris said. "The first half started so slow and our energy was slow."
With a 15-4 run in the third quarter that was aided by six points off turnovers, Merrillville beat the Bulldogs 59-52 in Duneland Athletic Conference action Friday.
"The girls like to get up and down the court," Pirates assistant coach Darcie Johnston said. "When we decided to press, they put in 100 percent effort and that's when the game turned in our favor."
Merrillville head coach Amy Govert wasn't available to reporters after the game as she was attending to injured senior Darian Patton. The guard had her hand wrapped and missed most of the game after a fall in the first quarter. Patton tried to play with the injury but found it difficult to shoot or catch the basketball. She could only dribble with her non-dominant hand.
Morris led all scorers with 17 points, including 10 in a 22-point Pirates third quarter. Myranda Harris added 15 points with a game-high eight steals. Sophomore Victoria Gaines had 14 points — 10 in the second half — with six steals.
"They got an earfull at the half," Johnston said. "They can't just walk into a gym and expect to win. These girls showed they have the heart we know they do."
Crown Point started two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors while seniors Sarah Rivich and Taylor Equihua have spent most of the week with the flu. Both entered in the second quarter while their younger teammates took a 17-9 lead.
"The younger girls looked at me tired and I shook my head, 'this is working, I'm not changing it,'" Crown Point coach Anne Equihua said. "When we play injured and when we play sick, it's forcing other kids to step up."
Junior Katija Tarailo scored a team-high 16 points and freshman Hannah Albrecht added 11.
After the surge that gave Merrillville (11-0, 7-0) a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs (3-10, 1-6) used a 3-pointer by Abby Kvachkoff to key a 7-0 run and pull within three points.
Merrillville ended the game hitting two of three free throws and with a late layup.
"I'm a senior. When we walked into that locker room, before the coaches came in, I talked to the team," Morris said. "I realized we were down and we had to pick them back up."