VALPARAISO | Dariyan Morris is so fast it’s a wonder anyone even chases her after having their pocket picked.
The 5-foot-3 Merrillville guard is brilliant in the passing lanes, and once she pokes the ball from the opposing guard’s hands, it’s gone, baby, gone. No need to wait 60 seconds.
All a defender sees is the bright No. 10 on her back, and her lanky arms extending for an easy layup. The catch? She is only getting better.
“We’re trying to get her to elevate her game,” Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. “We’re on her in film; we’re on her in game. We want her to raise her game. She needs to improve. Once she decides she wants to be an elite player, she’ll be an elite player.”
Morris had six steals and a game-high 23 points as visiting Merrillville opened Duneland Athletic Conference play early with a 48-17 win over flat-shooting Valparaiso at Viking Gym.
After Merrillville toyed too often with the 3-point shot in Saturday’s 33-point win over Andrean, Morris heeded the call of her coach, who wants nothing more than consistent strong drives to the basket.
She ended up outscoring the host squad herself on a night on which many shots hit the front of the rim and fell flat for both teams.
Merrillville’s defensive intensity more than made up for its lackluster shooting and added to Valparaiso’s woes with the jumper.
The Pirates (3-0, 1-0) led 10-4 after one and 25-8 at halftime. Morris had 14 of Merrillville’s points (56 percent) at the break, including two of her three 3-pointers.
“Offensively we were a little off,” Govert said. “Layups wouldn’t fall, and we were not very good from the line (12-of-18). We got going there once we relaxed.”
Darian Patton added seven points for the Pirates. Victoria Gaines had three points, three steals and two blocks.
For Valparaiso (1-3, 0-1), meanwhile, it’s already been a long November. After a pair of losses totaling 51 points, the Vikings head next to Plymouth and Michigan City on a three-game losing skid.
The Vikings could not get penetration, rebounds or consistent jump shots. Kassie Feczko led the hosts with six points.