Merrillville hit the floor running Thursday and by the time Chesterton got
its legs, the race was all but lost.
The Trojans made a strong second-half run to wipe out most of a 22-point
deficit, but the comeback fell short as the Pirates prevailed, 64-56.
"It's disappointing the way we came out in a big game. I thought it was a
bigger game for us than it was for them," Chesterton coach Tom Peller said.
"I just thought they were tougher and more determined in the first half."
Tyler Rusboldt hit a 3 to start the scoring, but the Pirates (14-2, 12-0)
quickly claimed the lead on a pair of Jelani Pruitt drives and they never
trailed again. Pruitt blocked four shots and Chesterton committed 12
turnovers in the first half against the ferocious Merrrillville pressure,
sparking the Pirates' transition attack. The Trojans managed just one basket
in an eight-point second quarter, when it coughed up the ball 10 times.
"They took us out of what we wanted to do," Peller said. "They were speeding
the game up and we were trying to slow it down. Their athleticism was
impressive. They're real quick and it really got to us. We kind of had that
wide-eyed, deer in the headlights look. We haven't done that since the first
or second game."
Merrillville's lead ballooned to 41-18 on a B.J. Jenkins 3 early in the
third quarter before Chesterton put together consecutive baskets for the
first time. It was 45-23 when the Trojans fashioned their first run, scoring
10 straight to get within 12 on a Cole Teal steal and breakaway early in the
"Where's the pride?" Peller said of his halftime talk. "They're scoring at
will. We haven't even stopped them. We fought back. We settled down, got our
composure back and played good basketball at the end of the game. I'm proud
of that. We just didn't start off."
Chesterton (9-8, 6-6) continued to chip away at the deficit in the fourth
quarter. Jacob Andert hit three 3s in the late going as the Trojans got as
close as 61-56 with 19.7 seconds left.
"Thank God for Jacob Andert," Peller said. "He really came through. Matt (Holba)
was a warrior. We were able to force some turnovers at the end."
Holba scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Palombizio and Andert
each scored 12, all of Andert's coming from beyond the arc.
The loss was Chesterton's third in a row. Coming off a loss to Munster,
Merrillville (14-2, 12-0) regrouped to clinch a share of the Duneland
Athletic Conference title with the victory.
"We were a little frustrated at how we finished the game last Saturday,"
Pirates coach T.J. Lux said. "We had to get back to some basics, to what our
identity is, being relentless, and I thought for the first 20, 21 minutes,
we did. Everybody was into the game, focused on what we were trying to do.
Fortunately, we were able to build a lead because they did a great job
Zoran Talley 3-7 2-2 8, Jelani Pruitt 7-14 0-0 14, Darion Williams 7-8 0-0
14, B.J. Jenkins 3-8 5-6 13, Jake Raspopovich 0-3 4-4 4, Isaiah Wilson 1-3
0-0 2, Donte Lockwood 1-2 0-0 3, Jalen Wilbert 0-1 0-0 0, Bryon Hill 1-2 0-0
2, K.V. Myricks 1-2 1-2 4, James Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals -- 24-50 12-14 64.
Cole Teal 3-11 0-0 6, Corey Rusboldt 1-5 4-4 7, Chris Palombizio 3-10 6-6
12, Matt Holba 5-9 3-4 13, Jacob Andert 4-7 0-0 12, Donnie Johnson 1-5 0-1
2, Brandon Roeske 2-5 0-0 4, Mike Thanos 0-0 0-0 0, Tevin Dilosa 0-0 0-0 0,
Andrew Ralph 0-1 0-0 0. Totals -- 19-53 13-15 56.
3-point field goals: Merrillville 4 (Jenkins 2, Lockwood, Myricks);
Chesterton 5 (Andert 4, Rusboldt). Leaders -- Rebounds: Raspopovich 5 (M);
Palombizio 8 (C). Assists: Jenkins 5 (M). Steals: Jenkins 3 (M); Rusboldt 2
(C). Blocks: Pruitt 4 (M). Team fouls: Merrillville 14; Chesterton 17.
Fouled out: None. Records: Merrillville 15-2 (12-0 DAC); Chesterton 9-8