VALPARAISO | It's been 14 years since LaPorte and Michigan City have met for a sectional title.
The LaPorte County rivals will tip it off with a trophy at stake tonight in the Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional final after posting double-digit victories Friday.
The Slicers (15-7) broke away from Chesterton (12-10) in the second half to win 71-58, while the Wolves (14-8) knocked out Portage (13-11), 64-49, setting up the teams' third meeting. The Slicers won the first two.
"It's a game that's special to a lot of people," LaPorte coach Tom Wells said. "It's an old rivalry that brings back a lot of memories to a lot of fans. We've talked all week about how special of a night it is and could end up being real special."
LaPorte was up 36-32 in the third quarter when three straight two-and-ones, one by Josh Fleming and two by Gage Ott, quickly pushed the lead to 13.
"We talked about trying to get them to react to us," Wells said. "That affects tempo, a lot of the mojo of the game."
Wells rotated Tyler Littlejohn and Miles Browder on Chesterton's Cole Teal in some junk defenses for three quarters and Teal managed just four points in that span.
"LaPorte had a good plan," Trojans coach Tom Peller said. "They kept us off sync with the different defenses."
Teal caught fire for 14 points in the fourth quarter, when Chesterton cut the deficit to eight, but the Slicers netted 20 free throws in the final eight minutes to hold steady.
"I was proud of how we battled," Peller said. "They're hard to beat when they shoot like that."
LaPorte hit 9-of-18 3s with Jacob Jones burying four and Fleming 3. Fleming posted 23 points and Ott 19 with nine boards.
"The two studs continue to do what they do," Wells said. "When we get that third guy going, we're just a tough out. Jacob got us to a great start. Blake Arnett. Miles and Tyler off the bench, they did a whale of a job on Teal. He had to work. That's one of the keys for us, getting contributions across the board."
In the opener, Michigan City overcame Luke Kizer's hot start for Portage to build a 10-point halftime lead. Jordan Collazo's 11-point third quarter drew the Indians (13-11) within five, but City (14-8) closed the period with six in a row and poured it on in the fourth, swelling the margin to as many as 21.
"Portage stuck around as long as they could," MC coach John Boyd said. "They just started to wear down. They're using eight guys and we kept putting in nine, 10, 11."
Kizer had 12 of his 15 points in the first half. Collazo's 13 all came after the half. Portage shot just 35 percent.
"They're talented and deep. They just keep the pressure on you," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "We had way too many unforced errors the first half, but that's the way they make you play. We had some good looks inside and outside. We just didn't make shots. That's the name of the game."
City had six players score at least six points and was topped by freshman Troy Jones, who booked all 14 of his points in the second half. Keenan Simmons notched a dozen.
"I don't know a lot of people who have started two freshmen and a sophomore all year," Boyd said. "They're growing up. You'd think they'd be nervous in this environment, but they seem comfortable with it. We've got some very quick guards and they've come on in a big way."