MERRILLVILLE | Recent hoops history has been good to the guards of Merrillville girls basketball.

First there was Bryonna Davis, an Indiana All-Star who took her team to the state finals in 2010. Then came Raveen Murray, Davis' clear successor who also followed her onto the All-Star roster.

Coach Amy Govert wondered who might come next--until this season, when Dariyan Morris emerged from her quiet perch in the background to take the reigns and lead the Pirates to a so-far undefeated regular season.

"Her personality is really coming out this year and it's fun to see," Govert said. "She's so much more outspoken as a senior and she's making a mark."

Morris is averaging 14.6 points per game, leading a team that includes future Division-I player and sophomore Victoria Gaines. Her 2.9 assist and 3.8 steals per game keep her in the mold of those previous successful Merrillville guards.

Morris, not a vocal player until this season, took to heart a challenge to help the Pirates maintain success despite graduating a big class. After Merrillville reached the state finals in March of 2010, the team went 14-8 in 2010-11, showing its growing pains.

Morris wanted to avoid a repeat.

"I accepted the challenge this season to prove that I can step up, that I am a good leader and that I have what it takes," Morris said. "I want to make (Govert) proud of us and what we've done, no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Govert said Morris' speed and shot selection have helped make her tough for opponents to catch. 

"She's a good defender, has good vision and we need that," Govert said. "In the past, we've had a lot of success with our guards, and we're always looking for the next one to step up. For us to be at this point in the season, after losing everything that we lost last year, you realize how much she's stepped up."

The Pirates continue the undefeated mark of the last regular season, improving their streak of unbeaten regular-season games to 38, dating back to a win over Crown Point to end the 2010-11 campaign.

That has become a point of pride for the Pirates, who play Chesterton tonight and Michigan City on Friday. One more win and Merrillville will clinch at least a share of the Duneland Athletic Conference title.

"We come in ready to play," Morris said. "People think that if we lose one person, we're not going to be as good; they think we do not have the ability to keep it going. We're happy to prove people wrong."

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.