GIRLS BASKETBALL

No downtime for Merrillville's AJ Downs

2014-02-21T23:15:00Z 2014-02-22T01:39:06Z No downtime for Merrillville's AJ DownsHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com
February 21, 2014 11:15 pm  • 

MERRILLVILLE | There's no time on the court for Merrillville's AJ Downs to take a breather.

The senior guard just can't allow herself to do it.

"To me, I don’t want to leave the floor," Downs said. "I don’t want to get out of the game. I love staying in and playing the game of basketball. Sometimes I (become tired), then I find energy inside me to help me keep going and help me stay on the floor as much as possible."

No, she's not secretly a marathon runner. In fact, she tried track once, but it took too much time away from basketball.

Her effort on the court makes her not only a tough stop, but also tough to take off.

When the Pirates topped LaPorte for the Hobart Sectional title on Saturday, Downs played nearly all 32 minutes.

"She’s had a great season and the one thing we always tell our younger kids is to watch how hard she plays," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. "Practice, in a game, she never takes a play off. It would be hard to find another player in this area that plays as hard as she does every second on the court."

Downs is next in line for the guard-dominated Pirates. She follows in the footsteps of Division-I talent Bryonna Davis, All-Star Raveen Murray and last year's grad Dariyan Morris, all Times players of the year.

A contributor as soon as she pulled on a purple uniform, Downs is in a new spot this season with the pressure on her to create plays and score points. Teams aren't ignoring the x-foot-x shooter, and she's adjusted her game as she finds herself double-teamed against a defense.

She is second on her team in points scored and leads with 2.4 steals per game. After this season, she's headed to Kirkwood Community College in Iowa, with the hope of a Division I offer in two years.

"Coming in, I don’t think the pressure was (there), but we had a rough start and when we had some people out the pressure really was put on her at the beginning of the year," Govert said. "She realized how hard it is. She’s the first one to say ‘we can’t do it by ourselves, we need everyone,’ because she’s been in that position.

"She realizes, obviously her points are up, she’s averaging close to 12 a game, but we rely on her to lead us on the defensive end, and if she came into every game thinking ‘oh my gosh, I have to score 25 points,’ then that’s a whole different pressure. She just lets the game come to her. Yeah, she’s had some games where she’s scored 24, and that’s just a bonus for us. She’s relaxed as the season has gone on and as we all got comfortable with each other."

Having fallen to LaPorte earlier in the season, this is the first year in Downs' career at Merrillville that the Pirates entered the sectional as an underdog.

They'll do the same at today's regional, where they'll play host Penn at 9:30 a.m. The Pirates fell to the Kingsmen 70-63 on Feb. 3.

"We kind of like that, we like to be the underdog," Downs said. "It’s a good thing that we’re the underdog and we don’t have a lot of pressure on us."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best girls cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News