Just 10 minutes.
With just 10 minutes left Friday night against Merrillville, the Chesterton
boys basketball team had things in complete control.
Then it changed.
The Pirates used an aggressive full-court press and a 20-2 run to knock the
Trojans out of the IHSAA Sectional Tournament at Michigan City 71-61.
“We had the game where we wanted after three quarters,” Chesterton coach Tom
Peller said. “The pressure was just too much for us. They picked us up
full-court late in the third quarter and we turned it over five or six times
on the next seven or eight possessions and that was the difference.”
Chesterton turned the ball over seven times in the first 3:49 of the fourth
quarter getting only baskets from freshmen Chris Palombizio and Matt Holba
as the Pirates erased a 45-33 deficit and turned it into a 58-50 lead.
“Sometimes you can deal with turnovers if you can get a stop on defense,”
Peller said. “Our turnovers led right into layups and points for them. It’s
hard to overcome that. We took some quick shots too that maybe we shouldn’t
have, but we had some openings and I wanted to let the guys play.
“It just didn’t work out for us.”
Merrillville jumped on top early with a 13-4 lead that turned into a 19-13
lead after one quarter. A 9-2 run to end the second quarter gave Chesterton
a 32-31 lead at halftime.
KeMonte Price scored four points and Cole Teal had the other five during the
stretch. Teal finished with 21 points on 8-of-11 shots from the field,
including 13 in the second quarter.
“He was outstanding in the first half,” Peller said. “One of the best high
school performances I’ve seen. Shooting, driving, rebounding and taking
charges on defense. He did everything we could’ve asked of him.
“The last two weeks, he’s played like one of the best sophomore’s in the
KJ Zelenika started the second half with a triple and the Trojans went on a
10-0 run after a Merrillville basket to build its 45-33 lead.
“We’ve really improved from the beginning of the season,” Peller said.
“These guys have a swagger to them and they’ve been winners in a lot of
different sports their whole lives. You can’t teach that as a coach, they
just have it.”
The Trojans will return three starters, including sophomore Teal along with
freshmen Holba and Palombizio next year. Sophomores Jacob Wasielewski and
Brandon Roeske saw significant minutes along with junior Donnie Johnson.
“I’m not surprised we made this run late in the year,” Peller said. “They’ve
gotten more consistent and are sharing the load. Everybody is involved and
buying into what we’re trying to do.
“There’s a learning curve, but they obviously have the talent to be very
The loss marked the end of the career of Price (16 points) and Zelenika.
“They stuck with us through the tough times and that’s something I’ll always
remember about them,” Peller said. “I really respect them for that and they
made great contributions for us. They accepted the young guys and created an
environment where we could excel.”
AT MICHIGAN CITY
Jake Raspopovich 1-2 3-5 5, John Mosley 2-4 0-0 4, BJ Jenkins 6-10 0-1 14,
Zoran Talley 4-6 4-6 14, Jelani Pruitt 5-13 7-8 17, Frank Jefferson 2-4 1-2
6, Jalen Wilbert 5-7 1-1 11, Michaud Cherry 0-0 0-0 0, Isaiah Wilson 0-0 0-0
0, James Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-46 16-23 71.
KeMonte Price 6-12 3-4 16, KJ Zelenika 1-3 0-0 3, Matt Holba 5-6 1-2 11,
Chris Palombizio 3-7 0-0 6, Cole Teal 8-11 4-6 21, Donnie Johnson 2-4 0-0 4,
Jacob Wasielewski 0-2 0-0 0, Brandon Roeske 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-45 8-12 61.
3-point field goals: Merrillville 5-12 (Jenkins 2-5, Talley 2-3, Jefferson
1-2, Wilbert 0-2); Chesterton 3-11 (Price 1-3, Zelenika 1-3, Palombizio 0-2,
Teal 1-1, Johnson 0-2). Rebounds: Merrillville 24 (Mosley 5, Jenkins 5,
Pruitt 5); Chesterton 23 (Holba 9). Assists: Merrillville 7 (Jenkins 2,
Talley 2); Chesterton 10 (Palombizio 4). Steals: Merrillville 9 (Jenkins 5);
Chesterton 5 (Holba 2, Teal 2).