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Merrillville makes defensive statement
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GIRLS BASKETBALL

Merrillville makes defensive statement

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MERRILLVILLE | Raveen Murray didn't know that Elkhart Memorial was ranked No. 4 in two different state girls basketball polls.

Not that it would have mattered to the Merrillville guard.

"We didn't know anything, we just came out playing basketball," said Murray, who scored a game-high 18 points, nabbed five steals and recorded four assists.

"Don't play scared, just play basketball and hold our composure. (Their ranking) isn't going to scare us."

The Pirates defense showed off for the second-straight night as Merrillville beat the Chargers 57-42 on Saturday, handing Elkhart Memorial its first loss of the season.

"I guess I need to kick them out of practice more often," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. "That jump-started it for them this week. I know what we're capable of and they have to believe in themselves and they have to put a whole game together. They did that."

After a week of defensive drills, the Pirates were told to leave just before the end of practice Thursday. Govert then gave her players the silent treatment, not speaking to them until they hit the locker room before Friday's Duneland Athletic Conference game against Chesterton.

The result was a pair of defensive gems in which Merrillville forced a two-day total of 66 turnovers, including 28 by Elkhart Memorial (4-1) on Saturday.

"We wanted to prove her right, that we could be the team that could beat anybody in Indiana," Murray said. "We proved that to her two nights in a row."

Freshman Victoria Gaines sat most of the first half, hampered by foul trouble. Govert challenged her in the locker room at halftime and Gaines answered with seven of her team's 14 third-quarter points as she finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals.

"I said 'You just sat here and watched everything and you better be ready to go. You better have the best second half you've ever had,'" Govert said. "She was ready to play. She was upset with herself getting the fouls, so she was ready to go."

Sophomore A.J. Downs was called on to guard Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Brionna Barnett. Of her team-high 12 points, Barnett scored five from the free-throw line and was 3-of-14 shooting.

The Pirates (6-0) also picked up five steals from Downs.

"Obviously Barnett is one heck of a player and we wanted to take her out of the game, and I thought A.J. did one heck of a job," Govert said. "It's not going to show up in the stats, but her on-ball defense is one of the best in the state and it all starts with her."

"(This game) was putting us to the test, see how far we had to come," Murray said. When asked what grade she'd give her team: "A-plus."

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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.

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