They're not there yet, but make no mistake, it's going to happen, and sooner
rather than later.
If indeed statements can be made in defeats, Chesterton issued one in
Saturday's 69-62 Duneland Athletic Conference loss to Merrillville.
The defending sectional champion Pirates start five seniors and are as
athletic as all get out, yet there were the Trojans, with two sophomores and
two juniors in their starting lineup, trading swings with Merrillville for
32 minutes, ready and willing to get involved in a track meet.
Ready and willing, but not totally able.
The frenetic pace also exacted somewhat of a toll on Chesterton (1-1, 0-1),
which committed 15 turnovers against the Pirates' defensive pressure, lost
trips down court that turned into pivotal baskets at the other end.
"The turnover situation was the difference in the game," Chesterton coach
Tom Peller said. "We panicked on some of our passes. You can't give a team
like Merrillville extra possessions. We can't simulate that (pressure) in
practice. If we have an advantage, we want to take it. We just have to learn
to stay a little more poised. There's a fine line there."
The Trojans trailed most of the way, but they never let Merrillville (3-0,
1-0) relax. On the brink of getting knocked out more than once, Chesterton
kept coming back, buoyed in the second half by the play of sophomores Chris
Palombizio (16 points) and Matt Holba (14 points, 14 rebounds). The tireless
Holba, who had a spectacular one-handed putback dunk wiped out by a foul
call in the first half, threw one down on a drive and converted a pair of
putbacks to keep the Trojans within 40-35 in the third quarter.
"Matt's got such great poise for a young kid," Peller said. "He understands
what needs to be done. His motor just keeps running. Chris didn't shoot the
ball well from the perimeter, but to his credit, he started taking it
Chesterton also got 11 points from Cole Teal and 10 from Corey Rusboldt.
Peller, who used 11 players, noted the effort of Jacob Andert (five points,
three rebounds, two steals) off the bench.
"We battled," Peller said. "We hung in there with them. It could've been
over, but we fought back. We're close. I can see it. We're getting better. I
think we're going to be in the upper tier of (DAC) teams this year. We're
going to be competitive each game. We've just got to win a couple of these
on the road and keep our home court."
Merrillville put four players in double figures, led by Jelani Pruitt (16).
He was backed by Zoran Talley (14), Jake Raspopovich (12 points, nine
assists) and B.J. Jenkins (12 points).
"I thought Chesterton did a good job handling our pressure. They got a lot
of easy baskets," Pirates coach T.J. Lux said. "Chesterton's a good team.
They've got some really good, highly-skilled players. Holba's so active, so
big. He's multi-talented. Palombizio's really improved his ball handling so
much, he's a more versatile threat, and Teal might be their best player. We
know Chesterton's going to be right there at the end."
Matt Holba 7-15 0-0 14, Chris Palombizio 6-13 4-7 16, Cole Teal 4-10 1-2 11,
Corey Rusboldt 5-7 0-0 10, Donnie Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Jake Wasielewski 1-1
0-0 2, Avery Beeks 1-2 0-0 2, Jacob Andert 2-6 0-0 5, Andrew Ralph 0-0 0-0
0, Tevin Dilosa 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Roeske 0-0 0-0 0. 27-57 5-9 62.
Jake Raspopovich 3-6 5-6 12, B.J. Jenkins 4-13 2-2 12, Zoran Talley 6-12 0-2
14, Isaiah Wilson 1-3 3-4 5, Jelani Pruitt 6-15 4-7 16, Breon Hill 1-1 0-0
2, Darion Williams 0-1 0-0 0, K.V. Myricks 0-0 0-0 0 Jalen Wilbert 2-3 2-2
6, Jamard Owens 1-2 0-0 2. Totals -- 24-56 16-23 69.
3-point field goals: Chesterton 3 (Teal 2, Andert 1); Merrillville 5
(Jenkins 2, Talley 2, Raspopovich 1). Leaders -- Rebounds: Holba (Ch) 14;
Pruitt 8 (M). Assists: Raspopovich 9 (M). Steals: Andert (Ch) 2; Talley (M)
3. Team fouls: Chesterton 11; Merrillville 8. Fouled out: None. Records:
Chesterton 1-1 (0-1 DAC); Merrillville 3-0 (1-0).