Merrillville defense and 2nd half surge upsets Bulldogs 71-60 in MC Sectional Championship

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
03-15-2017

Team /Record 1 2 3 4 Final
MERRILLVILLE (19-7) 10 17 21 23 71
CROWN POINT (22-4) 16 18 7 19 60

Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Class 4A, Sectional 2 Championship game at MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.

Merrillville cheerleader analyze CP senior Dominic Tomich's shooting style in pregame warm-ups. (Photos by Mark Smith)
CP's Andrew Kenneally (44) sets a screen so Bulldogs Sasha Stefanovic (33) can get to the basket for two of his 21 points.
CP's Vince Smith (42) played a season-high 12:50 minutes as the Bulldogs' Andrew Kenneally was in foul trouble in the sectional final against Merrillville.
Merrillville's Jaylon Holmes (5) sets a pick on Crown Point's Sam Krutz (30) to free up Cameron Wilbon (23) Jackson (23) early in the CP-Merrillville championship game.
Mileek McMillan (25) and Kam Jackson (4) make it tough for CP guard Dominic Tomich (12) to get off his shot in the sectional championship game. Tomich scored 14 points, shooting 5-of-11 from the field.
Merrillville's James Kirklen (14) tries to lob the ball over CP's Ken Decker (35) to Mileek McMillan (25). McMillan was 6-of-6 from the field and scored 12 points.
Cam Wilbon (23) tries to score in front of the Crown Point student section in the sectional championship game at Michigan City.
CP's Sammy Krutz (30) watches Sasha Stefanovic (33) shoot over Cam Wilbon (23) in the playoff game. Stefanovic scored 21 points.
Crown Point's Andrew Kenneally (44) shoots over Mileek McMillan in the sectional championship game in Michigan City. Kenneally played just 19 minutes, scoring eight points.
Crown Point cheerleaders give the ref semi-dirty looks as Merrillville's James Kirklen (14) is about to in-bound the ball in the sectional championship game.
CP's Kenny Decker (35) gets off a rare shot over Merrillville's Jonah Jackson (3) The Pirates held Decker to just four shots and six points.
Merrillville's Cameron Wilbon (23) poses with the sectional championship trophy after the Pirates' 71-60 win over CP in the 2017 Sectional championship game. Wilbon led all scorers with 32 points. (All photos by Mark Smith)
 

Copyright 2017 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: March 16, 2017 .

 

MERRILLVILLE (61) Jonah Jackson 2-2-7, Johnny Bernard 4-1-10, Mitch Ward 2-0-5, Mileek McMillan 6-0-12, Cameron Wilbon 11-7-30, James Kirklen 1-2-4, Kam Jackson 1-0-2, Jaylon Holmes 0-0-0, Rishard Balkcom 0-0-0. TOTALS: 27 (13-17) 71.

CROWN POINT (60) Dominic Tomich 5-3-14, Sasha Stefanovic 4-13-21, , Kenny Decker 1-4-6, Andrew Kenneally 4-0-8, Sam Krutz 1-0-2, Vince Smith 2-2-6, Tommy Frame 0-0-0, Nick Phillips 0-0-0, Matt Hanlon 1-0-3, Nick Geisen 0-0-0, Camron Pimentel 0-0-0, Sam Snodgrass 0-0-0, Tommy Frame 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18 (22-26) 60.

FREE THROWS: MERRILLVILLE (12-16, 75%) Jonah Jackson 2-2, Kirklen 2-2, Bernard 1-1, Wilbon 7-9. CROWN POINT (22-26, 84.6%) Stefanovic 13-15, Decker 4-4, Tomich 3-3, Smith 2-2, Kenneally 0-2.

REBOUNDS: MERRILLVILLE (21) Wilbon 8. Kirklen 5, Ward 2, McMillan 2, Balkcom 2, Jonah Jackson, Bernard; CP (43) Kenneally 3, Stefanovic 10, Decker 8, Krutz 3, Tomich, Smith.

ASSISTS: MERRILLVILLE (12) Jonah Jackson 5, Kirklen 3,Wilbon 2, McMillan 2 . CROWN POINT (6) Tomich, Krutz , Stefanovic, Decker, Kenneally, Geisen .

3-GOALS: MERRILLVILLE (4) Cameron Wilbon, Johnny Bernard, Mitch Ward, Jonah Jackson; CROWN POINT (2) Dominic Tomich, Matt Hanlon.

FOULED OUT: MERRILLVILLE (1) Mileek McMillan (4th Q) 2:21 left.

 

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MICHIGAN CITY (03-04-2017) Crown Point was one half away from a third consecutive sectional championship. But Merrillville still had a lot left to say about that. The Pirates overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to win by 11, 61-50 taking the 2017 Michigan City Sectional title.

"They were a different team in the second half," admitted a disappointed CP coach Clint Swan. "I really thought if we'd have won the first four minutes of the second half, we'd have won the game. Hats off to Merrillville. We had a lot of good shots, but they did so many good things against us defensively. TJ (Lux) did a great job and his kids executed the game plan."

Merrillville scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 36-34 lead and they never trailed after that. A CP team that had posted a program-high 22 wins, seemed tired shooting the ball and unable to match up defensively as the game went on.

Crown Point (24-2) had the best starting lineup I'd seen this year. But Merrillville is better 1-though-10 and that came into play in the sectional title game. CP led 34-27 at the half, but center Andrew Kenneally sat for seven minutes with foul problems and Merrillville senior center Mileek McMillan was 4-for-4 from the floor, keeping the Pirates in the game.

After halftime, Merrillville took advantage of another mismatch: The Pirates' 6-foot-5 senior Cameron Wilbon against Crown Point's 6-foot-1 sophomore Sam Krutz. The Bulldogs didn't switch the defensive assignments, possibly because they didn't want 6-foot-5 senior Sasha Stefanovic to leave Johnny Bernard, the Pirates' leading scorer. And they probably didn't want point guard Dominic Tomich, also only 6-foot-1, to have to work too much on defense since Tomich is CP's only true lead guard.

Wilbon was 5-of-11 from the floor in the first half and 7-of- 9 in the second half for a career-high 32 points.

"He was a matchup problem for us," admitted Swan. "We did a good job on him the first time we played, but he came off some screens tonight. Sam forced him into tough jump shots, but he made them. He's a heckuva player."

Pirate coach TJ Lux said that his side finally utilized the mismatches they were not able to work in the earlier 69-62 home court loss to Crown Point.

"We gave up nine offensive rebounds in the second half," he said. "That was not by design. We made a couple of changes defensively in the second half and the guys just locked in. I think it was intensity and effort that turned the tide and Cam was just a beast."

Merrillville did not defense CP the way they have in the past. They did not press full court, concentrating on running CP shooters off the three-point line, where the Bulldogs shot almost 37% (149 of 404) for the season. The Bulldogs were 2-of-19 on 3-point shots against the Pirates. Merrillville also backed away from Krutz and guard Dom Tomich, concentrating on sending extra defenders at Sasha Stefanovic (19.9 ppg.), Kenny Decker (14.3 ppg.) and Andrew Kenneally (13.4 ppg.).

"We had a good talk at halftime," said Lux. "Reinforcing what we wanted to do. The big thing was to make a commitment to get the ball inside. Mileek got us going and then Cam had that mindset. Cam is so good and smooth inside. Drawing contact and finishing. The thing with him is to get him to not settle for the long shot. He can use his size, see the floor and create. He just has to commit to doing it."

Swan would not say that CP, playing for the third time in four nights (Merrillville got a quarterfinal 'bye' in the sectional) was tired, but the way the game played out suggested that. CP basically played their starting five most all year. The Bulldogs' five starters all played 500 minutes or more in the 26-game season. No one on the CP bench played more than 250 minutes all year. Merrillville uses seven or eight players and seven played 15 minutes or more against CP. The Pirates had more depth and fresher depth as they only played two sectional games. That's not an excuse, it's just the way it was.

"Obviously, their three leading scorers do most of the scoring," said Lux.

"Merrillville had a lot to do with that (CP looking tired)," said Swan. "We've never made any excuses before. We're not going to make them now. When the shots aren't falling, you have to find another way to make it happen. They stayed with their plan.
 
"I had a bad feeling at the a half. Things were looking good, but I had a bad feeling that we were teetering on the brink. I felt like they (Merrillville) were going to go on a run and I wondered if we could answer it."

Merrillville outscored CP 21-7 in the third quarter in a very intense half court game. When Johnny Bernard stole the ball and dunked it, the Pirates led 52-43 with 7:13 to go in the game. CP was 22 of 26 from the foul line, staying close.

But the Pirates kept the ball from Decker, who took only four shots from the field and pushed Stefanovic, the Purdue recruit, well back off the 3-point line. Guarded, with help, by Bernard and 6-foot-2 senior Mitch Ward, Sasha was 0-for-11 on three point shots, after sinking 56 3-balls in 25 games.

CP, which had lost only to Michigan City (56-53), Pike (67-62) and second-ranked Warren Central (62-50), saw an eight game win streak broken. Crown Point turns the page now. They will have four new starters next season and they will now have major reconstruction to rebuild the dangerous inside-outside offense they have been the last three years.
This senior class not only won, but they took the name of Crown Point high school downstate to play perennial boys basketball superpowers Pike and Warren Central in Indianapolis.

"They've become the face of Crown Point," said Swan. "They overcame a crazy coach putting together a schedule with all kinds of good teams. They represented this school and this community very gracefully and it was fun to watch. It was great to be a part of their lives for these years. "

DOG NOTES: Merrillville's sectional championship was the Pirates' 19th in school history and the first since 2013. Seven days later, Merrillville went on to win the Michigan City Regional with victories over (South Bend) Adams and Warsaw.

CP has never won three consecutive sectional championships. They also won back-to-back titles in 1985 and '86. Crown Point's total of 60 wins for the consecutive seasons 2015 (19-9), 2016 (19-9) and 2017 (22-4) is the most in school history.

CP pulled away from Chesterton to win the semifinal 78-66. Sasha Stefanovic scored 29 and Andrew Kenneally added 22 for the Bulldogs, who outscored Chesterton 32-23 in the final quarter. Kenny Decker scored 19 points and added nine rebounds.

As to be expected, Merrillville's TJ Lux, who lives in Crown Point and coaches youth baseball and basketball in Crown Point, didn't want to say the win meant anything extra to him, with the Pirates defeating Merrillville's arch-rival Crown Point.

"Clint and I are friends," he said. "Obviously I see these guys all the time. But I'm doing this for these guys (his players). I've been fortunate in what basketball has meant to me and I just want them to experience it all. That's what it's all about."

Crown Point shot 48.7% from the field in 26 games and sank 75.9% (412 of 543) from the foul line. Sasha Stefanovic finished his career with a CP school record 1,347 points. The old record, held by 1971 graduate Jim Liss (1,315 points) had lasted for 46 years.

CLASS

SECTIONAL

ORDER YOUR HOOSIER BASKETBALL MAGAZINE

PAST SEASONS

4A

2

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

MAP TO SCHOOL

22-4

RED, WHITE

GYM SIZE: 3,800

CROWN POINT

BULLDOGS

Coach: Clint Swan, 158-98 in 11th year at school, 296-170 in 20th year overall

DATE

OPPONENT

RESULT / CT

OA 63.8 DA 52.5

Nov. 23

at Bowman Academy {}

 W   73-  69

 

Dec. 3

at Penn {4A}

ot W   57-  51

 

Dec. 6

East Chicago Central {4A}

 W   85-  72

 

Dec. 10

Pike {4A}

 W   72-  59

 

Dec. 16

at Munster {4A}

 W   59-  32

 

Dec. 22

at Boone Grove {2A}

 W   75-  23

 

Dec. 27

Columbus East {4A}

 W   72-  61

 tournament

Dec. 28

at Noblesville {4A}

 W   62-  59

 tournament

Dec. 28

Pike {4A}

ot  L   62-  67

 tournament

Dec. 31

at South Bend Washington {4A}

 W   64-  52

 

Jan. 6

Michigan City {4A}

  L   53-  56

 

Jan. 13

at Merrillville {4A}

 W   69-  62

 

Jan. 14

Griffith {3A}

 W   68-  56

 

Jan. 20

at Chesterton {4A}

 W   59-  40

 

Jan. 21

Warsaw {4A}

ot W   50-  46

 

Jan. 27

LaPorte {4A}

 W   56-  44

 

Jan. 28

at Warren Central {4A}

  L   50-  62

 

Feb. 2

at Portage {4A}

 W   48-  38

 

Feb. 7

at Andrean {3A}

 W   73-  61

 

Feb. 10

Valparaiso {4A}

 W   53-  51

 

Feb. 17

at Lake Central {4A}

 W   59-  40

 

Feb. 21

Hammond Morton {4A}

 W   69-  40

 

Feb. 24

Lowell {4A}

W   68-  52

 

Mar. 1

Hobart {4A}

W   66-  36

 sectional

Mar. 3

Chesterton {4A}

W   78-  66

 sectional

Mar. 4

Merrillville {4A}

L   60-  71

 sectional

DUNELAND CONFERENCE GAME    NEUTRAL COURT

 
CLASS SECTIONAL ORDER YOUR HOOSIER BASKETBALL MAGAZINE PAST SEASONS
4A 2 TOURNAMENT HISTORY MAP TO SCHOOL 21-7
PURPLE, WHITE GYM SIZE: 2,800
MERRILLVILLE
PIRATES
Coach: T.J. Lux, 103-45 in 6th year at school
DATE OPPONENT RESULT / CT OA 64.5, DA 55.3
Nov. 23 at Hammond {3A}  W   72-  47  
Nov. 26 Southport {4A}  W   60-  41  
Dec. 2 at East Chicago Central {4A}   L   67-  69  
Dec. 9 Hammond Noll {2A}  W   91-  43  
Dec. 10 Andrean {3A}  W   88-  79  
Dec. 20 at Hammond Morton {4A}  W   78-  61  
Dec. 22 McCutcheon {4A}   L   74-  77  
Dec. 29 Norwell {3A}  W   60-  36  tournament
Dec. 29 Leo {3A}  W   69-  55  tournament
Dec. 30 Valparaiso {4A}  W   62-  60  tournament
Dec. 30 Hamilton Southeastern {4A}   L   75-  83  tournament
Jan. 6 at Chesterton {4A}  W   64-  61  
Jan. 13 Crown Point {4A}   L   62-  69  
Jan. 14 at Munster {4A}  W   64-  34  
Jan. 20 at Portage {4A}  W   55-  52  
Jan. 21 Carroll (Fort Wayne) {4A}  W   59-  49  
Jan. 27 at Valparaiso {4A}   L   56-  63  
Jan. 28 at Lowell {4A}  W   65-  61  
Feb. 2 at Lake Central {4A}   L   58-  59  
Feb. 10 LaPorte {4A}  W   66-  55  
Feb. 11 at Warsaw {4A}  W   53-  48  
Feb. 17 Michigan City {4A}   L   43-  47  
Feb. 18 Hobart {4A}  W   64-  52  
Feb. 24 Penn {4A}  W   49-  44  
Mar. 3 at Michigan City {4A}  W   57-  48  sectional
Mar. 4 Crown Point {4A}  W   71-  60  sectional
Mar. 11 South Bend Adams {4A}  W   75-  49  regional
Mar. 11 Warsaw {4A}  W   50-  46  regional
Mar. 18 Fort Wayne North {4A} 5:00 pm  Huntingtonsemistate
DUNELAND CONFERENCE GAME    NEUTRAL COURT

   


CLASS 4A SECTIONAL BRACKETS
 

EAST CHICAGO CENTRAL BRACKET

1

Tue.

Hammond Morton 67, Highland 64, overtime

2

Wed.

Munster 42, Gary West 36

3

Wed.

Lake Central 43, Lowell 39

4

Fri.

East Chicago Central 74, Hammond Morton 69

5

Fri.

Lake Central 53, Munster 40

6

Sat.

East Chicago Central 67, Lake Central 62

MICHIGAN CITY BRACKET

1

Tue.

Michigan City 72, Valparaiso 55

2

Wed.

Crown Point 66, Hobart 36

3

Wed.

Chesterton 73, Portage 70, overtime

4

Fri.

Merrillville 57, Michigan City 48

5

Fri.

Crown Point 78, Chesterton 66

6

Sat.

Merrillville 71, Crown Point 60

SOUTH BEND WASHINGTON BRACKET

1

Tue.

Plymouth 52, South Bend Washington 51, overtime

2

Wed.

South Bend Adams 73, South Bend Riley 72

3

Wed.

LaPorte 61, South Bend Clay 58

4

Fri.

Plymouth 40, Mishawaka 37, overtime

5

Fri.

South Bend Adams 66, LaPorte 63, 2 overtimes

6

Sat.

South Bend Adams 53, Plymouth 43

ELKHART CENTRAL BRACKET

1

Tue.

Goshen 40, Concord 38

2

Wed.

Elkhart Central 75, Penn 73, 3 overtimes

3

Wed.

Warsaw 36, Northridge 33

4

Fri.

Goshen 65, Elkhart Memorial 56

5

Fri.

Warsaw 71, Elkhart Central 36

6

Sat.

Warsaw 49, Goshen 32