IU-NORTHWEST VS CALUMET COLLEGE MEN'S BASKETBALL BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
GARY | Calumet College's men's basketball team is making quite a turnaround early this season, and a lot of that has to do with two local players.
Hammond grad Robert Jackson poured in 24 points to lead the Crimson Wave to a 75-68 win over local rival IU-Northwest at the Savannah Center on Wednesday.
“It was just the will to win,” Jackson said of his offensive firepower. “It was just the team getting into a rhythm."
Album ID: 1739209
Photos by John Smierciak
Crown Point Veterans Day Ceremony
Veterans Day in Crown Point
Album ID: 1731070
Photos by Kyle Telechan
LAKE CENTRAL DEFEATS MERRILLVILLE IN 6A SECTIONAL 1 CHAMPIONSHIP BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
ST. JOHN | Gelen Robinson rightfully has no recollection of the last time Lake Central won a sectional because it was in 1999.
His memory of 2002 isn’t much better, but that was the last time Lake Central beat Merrillville. After that sectional victory, the Indians went on to lose to the Pirates 16 times in a row.
Robinson does, however, have a sharp recall of a play from the last time Merrillville and Lake Central met in the postseason.
Two years ago Robinson picked up a fumble at midfield at Merrillville in the sectional opener and was running unimpeded toward the end zone when the whistle blew and the officials said the Pirates player was down before the fumble.
Merrillville won that game 30-24.
For an athlete that seldom takes a loss in any of his three sports, the loss stung.
"That hurt real bad, it hurt for a long time," Robinson said.
Now the hurt is gone. Robinson had two sacks and recovered two of Merrillville’s five lost fumbles, and Lake Central ended its Merrillville misery and sectional famine all at once with an emphatic 31-0 victory over the visiting Pirates Friday night in the Class 6A Sectional 1 final at the Burial Grounds.
The Indians (9-2) host Penn (11-0) next week in the regional.
"It doesn't hurt anymore,” Robinson said. “I can't put into words what this means, what this feels like. Our team won this championship and it's the greatest feeling in the world."
The cold and rain played into Lake Central’s favor because it slowed Merrillville’s vaunted speed-based offense and allowed Lake Central’s defense to stymie the out-of-sorts Pirates and hold them to 42 net yards rushing and 71 passing
“I didn’t want to go my senior year without beating Merrillville, and that would have been the 17th loss to Merrillville, consecutively, so we definitely did not want to go out on that note, and we didn’t,” Robinson said.
Album ID: 1726200
Photos by John Smierciak
T.F. SOUTH VS SANDBURG IN CLASS 4A REGIONAL SEMIFINAL VOLLEYBALL BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
TINLEY PARK | It was the worst possible ending, and the best possible message.
After T.F. South trailed, 23-18, in the third set of its Andrew Regional final, and 24-21, and at 24-23 when Crystal Lee slammed home her 13th kill of the night following a heart-stopping dig by Cori Reynolds, after a timeout as a reeling Sandburg tried to gather itself, Justine Flores stepped to the line to serve for the tie.
And floated the ball wide.
"I was just trying to get it in," she said later. "It hit the wrong part of my hand."
The Sandburg half of the crowd erupted over the 25-22, 17-25, 25-23 win that sent them to their own Class 4A sectional for a 7 p.m. Tuesday semifinal opposite Marist. The T.F. South half groaned. Flores collapsed to the floor.
Her teammates ran to her, and picked her up.
"That meant a lot," she said. "It said it wasn't my fault. … It said we are a team — we win as a team, and we lose as a team."
Twenty-six times in 31 outings this season, the Rebels won. Against the Eagles (30-7), they won more points — 70-67 — but Sandburg eked out a win in the opening set and, after nearly getting blocked out of the gym in Set 2, another in the closer to advance.
Seven different Rebels had kills on the night. Briana Lilly, Lee, Leah Lagestee and Jenna Pasko put up tremendous blocks. Ashtyn Kapovich, Reynolds and Flores, senior defensive stalwarts, anchored a back row that cleaned up what blocks didn't swat down.
Album ID: 1725587
Photos by John Smierciak
CROWN POINT VS CHESTERTON IN SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP VOLLEYBALL GAME BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
CROWN POINT | Bob Dylan sang about serving somebody back in the late 1970s. His crooning was unique and some would say awful.
On Saturday at the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional, the host Bulldogs served like Dylan sang in the morning semifinal, then hit the notes better in the championship against Chesterton.
In a exhausting win over LaPorte, C.P. had 20 service errors. In the final against the Trojans, only 11 bad serves occurred.
The Bulldogs won 26-24, 25-19, 25-11, to win the program's first sectional championship since 1992.
“It was much better tonight,” C.P. coach Allison Duncan said of her team's serving. “This means a lot. We've worked hard for the last four years. This was all about setting the tempo.”
Crown Point (28-8) will travel to Munster for the regional Tuesday.
Chesterton (23-13) was one point from winning the first game, but the Bulldogs roared back for the very emotional win.
“We've been in tough games all year,” said C.P. senior Abby Kvachkoff, who had nine kills.
Kvachkoff got most of her kills sliding behind the setters and finishing strong.
“The slide was open against them,” she said. “This is a great feeling, because it hasn't happened in so long.”
Junior Alyssa Kvarta had a monster game, with 10 kills, 27 assists and she was 12-of-12 serving with two aces. She said she cried after beating LaPorte in the semifinal because her team was that much closer to realizing a dream.
She had a fabric heart in her sock that one of her club coaches, Troy Campbell, gave to her.
“We like to cheer really loud,” Kvarta said. “If we make a mistake, we bounce back. Our main priority is to be loud and get in their heads. It totally works.”
Album ID: 1723593
Photos by John Smierciak
ANDREAN VS KNOX IN CLASS 3A SECTIONAL FOOTBALL GAME BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
MERRILLVILLE | Andrean senior quarterback Matt DeSomer donned jersey No. 30 of injured teammate David Graham in Friday’s lopsided 58-6 victory over an outmanned Knox at Father Eckert Field in a Class 3A Sectional 25 opener.
Graham broke his fibula late in last week’s game against Lowell and is out for the rest of the season.
Andrean coach Phil Mason said Graham, a sophomore linebacker, has been playing great and always gives it everything he’s got on the field.
“He’s a great kid, and Matt just gave him a little tribute tonight and wore his jersey for him just to keep some spirit out there,” Mason said.
Graham’s jersey also had a little magic in it, as DeSomer was a perfect 10 for 10 passing for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
DeSomer said he’s been inspired by the play of Graham and wanted to make him still feel part of the team.
“I think he’s one of the best linebackers in the area,” DeSomer said.
Graham was on the sideline on crutches wearing DeSomer’s No. 3 and said he was honored that DeSomer wore his game jersey.
DeSomer aired it out early, connecting with Jamie Johnson on a 61-yard scoring pass to put Andrean (10-0) up 7-0 with 7:50 left in the opening quarter.
Trevor Berg broke free from 28 yards out to put the Niners up 14-0 in the first quarter before DeSomer hooked up with Ramon Guerrero from 8 yards out, and Cam Bosak finished an Andrean drive with a 5-yard scamper for a 28-0 lead at the half.
“We just kind of kept it simple,” Mason said. “I don’t think we made many mistakes, and I thought our defense played great. We got to play a ton of kids.”
Album ID: 1723266
Photos by John Smierciak
MUNSTER VS HAMMOND MORTON GIRLS SECTIONAL VOLLEYBALL BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
MUNSTER | Blaire Barnett and her Munster teammates never look past an opponent.
However, Wednesday's Munster Sectional opener against Morton gave the Mustangs a chance to fine tune their games as the postseason unfolds.
Munster received a dominant performance out of Barnett, a junior setter, in a 25-5, 25-4, 25-13 win over the Governors.
"Blaire has an awesome sidespin serve that not a lot of players in the area have," Munster coach Tracy Summers said. "She can mix it up as well, which is nice. When she's on, it's pretty tough to stop."
Barnett was certainly tough to stop. She led Munster with seven aces and the Mustangs compiled 21 as a team, catching Morton out of position several times on serves.
"I always try hard to mix it up a little," Barnett said. "Tonight, it was fun to be able to try different things. I like serving because it's your own personal thing and you don't have to rely on other people."
Morton gave Munster (31-3) a much tougher third set, but the Mustangs limited Morton's attacking overall. Amanda Colvin led the Governors with three kills and five digs, while three other players had two kills.
Shannon Farrel had 10 digs and six aces for Munster, while Morgan Switalla led the Mustangs with 17 assists.
"Tonight's match, we used to work on some things we need to get better at," Summers said. "I think that we are a really strong team."
Munster advances to play Lake Central at 10 a.m. Saturday in one semifinal match. The last time the Mustangs and Indians met on Aug. 27, it was an instant classic, as Munster battled to a five-set win.
"Every year it's a nail-biter, a great game to watch," Summers said. "We've been working the whole season for Saturday. I feel a lot of confidence going in. It's coming in with that game face and playing fearless, which has been our motto all year."
Album ID: 1722303
Photos by John Smierciak
LAKE CENTRAL VS MERRILLVILLE FOOTBALL BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
ST. JOHN | An intimidating, big-band, senior-night atmosphere with the right to the driver’s seat in the conference race did not deter DJ Wilkins or his teammates.
In a reverse of the cliche “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Merrillville started well and made enough plays on defense down the stretch to escape Lake Central with a 20-17 Duneland Athletic Conference win over the Indians.
The Times No. 2 Pirates beat the No. 3 Indians for the 16th consecutive time dating back to 2002. They also clinched at least a share of the DAC title.
Billed as a potential defensive stalemate, the game had two touchdowns in the first 96 seconds and a third when the game was barely seven minutes old.
The huge, vaunted defenses eventually stepped up and made running nearly impossible for both tailbacks, and turnovers and field position created a shaky ground down to the final two minutes when Merrillville was able to kneel the ball comfortably.
After the teams came out of halftime tied at 14, Merrillville scored on its first possession of the half, to go up 20-14 following a missed kick.
The Pirates (7-1, 6-0) opened the game with a three-play scoring drive capped by a 69-yard bomb from sophomore quarterback DJ Wilkins to Tyrie Fuller. On their third possession the Pirates struck again, with Fuller hitting Jonathan Robinson for a 61-yard touchdown pass and a 14-7 lead.
“Had that not happened early in the game, for sure, it would have been a tough thing to come back from,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “(Lake Central had) a good defense, but I think the one thing our offense did was they came off the bus pretty well and ready to play. We just need to maintain the consistency a little bit. We’re getting to the point in the season that that should be the expectation.”
Wilkins threw for 289 yards and three scores, the last one to Robinson for the junior’s second of the night and what turned out to be the game-winner with 8:43 to go in the third quarter.
Fuller had seven catches for 142 yards and Robinson had three for 89 with the two touchdowns.
Neither team eclipsed 80 yards rushing on the night.
Lake Central (6-2, 5-1) answered Merrillville’s first score with a nine-yard touchdown from Ethan Darter to John Gbur, but Darter was 17-for-38 passing and misfired on 10 of his final 12 attempts in the clutch before a Hail Mary completion past midfield on the game’s final play.
"We had some issues up front with them," Lake Central coach Brett St. Germain said of the Indians forgoing the run in the second half and throwing much more than normal. "(Ethan Darter) will get better from situations like this. When you play in games like this you will learn from it. We're riding with him right now."
Alec Olund made some cameos at quarterback. Last year’s starter ran for an 18-yard touchdown with 8:33 to go in the first half to tie the game.
Lake Central halved Merrillville’s lead when Jillian Doan kicked a 27-yard field goal with 5:26 to go, but the Indians couldn’t overcome three interceptions and rampant incompletions in the passing game.
Merrillville had a chance to increase its lead with 2:24 to go, but a 28-yard field goal attempt went wide left. Four straight incompletions by the Indians gave Merrillville the ball and the victory formation opportunity.
Album ID: 1717256
Photos by John Smierciak
TF UNITED VS OAK FOREST SOCCER BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
CALUMET CITY | It may be too late for Thornton Fractional to win a South Suburban Blue Conference title, but it still isn't taking any games lightly.
T.F. United dominated Oak Forest 9-0 in a South Suburban Blue match Thursday. Ray Kobus and Luis Ramirez each scored two goals, and Cristian Gonzalez had a goal and an assist. Jose Sandoval recorded three assists as Thornton Fractional used seven first-half goals to quickly topple the Bengals and force the slaughter rule with a 20-minute second half.
"There was a lot of passing and two-touch soccer," Kobus said of the win. "Very unselfish. We played our game today and came out with a good result."
Ramirez, a junior, said the team is still a work in progress that has put their 5-15-1 record of 2012 behind them and is playing at another level this year.
"We're working and doing good this season," Ramirez said. "Last year we did terrible, honestly. But the bad thing is that these seniors are going to leave, but still we have a good team this year."
With a 6-3 record in the South Suburban Blue, the United is preparing for the playoffs and what it hopes will be a deep run.
"Our first goal was winning conference or even sharing the title," Kobus said. "Now, we're focusing with our practices for preparing for regionals. We're looking forward to trying to get a regional championship."
Kobus, a senior leader on the United, is looking for good practices before the playoffs to help lead the team into the postseason.
"Definitely communicating and just keep playing our game," he said. "Finishing and listen to what we do in practice. How we practice is how we play."
Album ID: 1716632
Photos by John Smierciak
MUNSTER VS MERRILLVILLE REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BY JOHN SMIERCIAK
MUNSTER | Munster boys tennis coach Steve Lopez knows his team can play with anybody.
That includes ranked teams, as the Mustangs defeated No. 16 Crown Point 3-2 on Tuesday to continue their postseason run.
Though Wednesday's Munster Regional championship match against Merrillville wasn't as difficult as Tuesday's semifinal, the Mustangs weren't going to overlook anybody. They came away with a 5-0 win over the Pirates to win their ninth straight regional championship, and continued their own state record with their 31st title as a program.
“I still think this was a great regional,” Lopez said. “The way it was represented and how tight all the matches were, I think it speaks volumes for region tennis.”
With five varsity players graduating last season from Munster's team, young players like sophomores Trey DeLuna and Arlo Detmer have turned up their games this season.
“This year, we knew we had to step it up to keep the tradition alive,” DeLuna said. “It feels really good that we accomplished that.”
DeLuna continued the momentum from a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win in Tuesday's No. 2 singles match against Crown Point's Lance Noerenberg with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Merrillville's Ayron Williams on Wednesday.
“When I played (Noerenberg) in past tournaments and the offseason, he won decisively,” DeLuna said. “I feel like this season, with coach Lopez and my team, I really improved and I feel like I'm at that level where I can compete with the top guys at No. 2 singles. They really encourage me and help me improve to get at a high level at No. 2 singles.”
Merrillville (5-14) gave Munster a couple scrappy matches. Nygel Jackson fought hard with Colin Richter at No. 1 singles, but Jackson lost 6-2, 6-1.
“We played better at every position than we have all season,” Merrillville coach James Simon said. “Our relationship (with Munster) is so good. One day, we'll be able to give them a run for their money. Until then, we'll just enjoy coming out here.”
Munster (17-4) will face No. 1 Carmel (20-1) at Saturday's Culver Academies 1 Semistate. The Mustangs have ran into the Greyhounds brick wall in the last two semistate rounds and have lost with matching 5-0 scores.
“We've lost to them, and I think we're just going to go in and do our best,” DeLuna said. “We know we can play well, and hopefully our games rise with better competition.”