MERRILLVILLE | As Michigan City committed foul after foul in the last three minutes of Tuesday’s girls basketball game against Duneland Athletic Conference foe Merrillville, the Pirates took advantage.
Merrillville missed two of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter and turned a five-point deficit into a 67-63 win to remain undefeated.
“Down by five, we had to pick it up, the defense, the offense,” said Merrillville sophomore Jaz Talley, who scored a team high with 15 points, including six in the fourth quarter. “Our shots weren’t falling in the first half. If we just picked it up, our shots would start falling.”
The Pirates (8-0, 5-0) had four players score in double digits, moving the ball around and spreading out their guard-heavy offense.
Sophomore Victoria Gaines stepped on the foot of Michigan City’s Toni Murphy in the first 30 seconds and fell to the floor. She hobbled off favoring her right ankle, then took a few laps before returning in the second quarter. Gaines tore her ACL against the Wolves in the sectional semifinal last season.
“I fractured my ankle in the eighth grade, so it’s always swollen,” said Gaines, who went 7-of-7 from the line and scored 13 points. “When it’s my ankle, I always get back up.”
Michigan City was missing 6-foot center Keshyana Cooper for the first half for what coach Mike Megyese called “my decision.” She returned for the second half, scored her team’s first five points of the third quarter and then fouled out with a minute left and 13 points.
The Wolves (6-1, 4-1) took a lead as large as five points with 3:36 remaining in the game, but a questionable 3-point missed shot by leading scorer Murphy and the final foul on Cooper helped lead to the loss, Megyese said. Murphy finished with a game-high 19 points.
“We beat ourselves down the stretch,” Megyese said. “I’m not saying they didn’t play a good game … but we’re a veteran team, and we had two crucial situations, we commit a foul with a three-point lead and take a 3 with a five-point lead, that’s called hurting ourselves. In the second half we out-played them. We deserved to win for the most part, but mentally we let it get away.”
Senior Dariyan Morris added 14 points for Merrillville, and AJ Downs had 12 points, including six in the final quarter.
“We have a lot of weapons on the floor and people are obviously aware of that now,” Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. “Coming into the season no one expected much of us. I’m so proud of these kids for showing what they can do.”