HOBART | With a 10-point lead after the first quarter, Merrillville's defense took a break that allowed the Hobart offense to drive inside, shoot outside and rebound at will.
The quarter-long break eliminated the lead and put the state-ranked No. 3 team behind by two points.
"Defensively, we needed to regroup and get our heads straight," said Merrillville senior Dariyan Morris, who scored 15 points while battling the flu. "We figured out what we needed to do. It hit us when we were down how we needed to fix it."
The Times No. 1 Pirates found the offense that had also taken a back seat and regained the lead in a 42-point second half to beat the Brickies 68-51.
"It was a very disappointing effort overall, especially on the defensive end," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. "We gave up, what, 22 points in the quarter? That's not us. That's unacceptable. That's what we weren't happy with, and we still didn't fix it."
With Victoria Gaines on the bench with her second foul 42 seconds into the second quarter, Hobart went on a 10-0 run to take a 19-18 lead. The Pirates didn't score a bucket for the final 6:26 of the quarter, with eight points from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, Hobart's Kara Cooke scored nine of her team's 22 points in the frame. Cooke finished with a team-high 14 points, held to three in the second half.
"They can't just come into the gym and expect to win," Govert said. "It's going to be a fight every night. We were not rebounding. We were not containing. Our defense is all about keeping them on the perimeter, and they drove at will."
Merrillville was 31-of-42 from the free-throw line, including 20-of-39 in the second half.
Gaines hit 14 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, and was 6-of-7 from the free-throw line, despite sitting for most of the second quarter. Jaz Talley added 11 points for the Pirates (16-0).
Autumn Beal scored 12 points, and Caitlin Leath had a game-high 10 rebounds for Hobart (13-6).
"(Hobart) did a good job battling back, and I'm proud of them," Brickies coach Mike Hamacher said. "We needed that same execution and enthusiasm we had battling back to carry over into the second half."