CHESTERTON — Quicker negated bigger for one half as Hammond's speed took away Chesterton's size advantage.
The Trojans found the solution in the second half, pounding the ball inside to Jake Wadding and Austin Peterson, whose low post superiority powered Times No. 1 Chesterton past the No. 4 Wildcats 67-60 on Tuesday.
"They're fast. We slowed it down in the second half," Wadding said. "My teammates kept passing me the ball. I had smaller guys guarding me, so I took advantage."
Wadding feasted on the low block all game, scoring all 10 of his baskets at the rim as Hammond, with only one player over 6-foot-2 seeing action, unable to match up in the half court. When Peterson wasn't finding Wadding (22 points) for layups, he was doing his own interior damage, helping seal the deal with 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
"They're scrappy," Chesterton coach Marc Urban said of Hammond. "They have a lot of guys who can put it on the floor. They also have a lot of guys who can shoot. They're relentless. They keep coming. They're 100 percent full speed all the times. We dictated the tempo as much as we could. The second half, we did a better job coming back to the basketball."
Chesterton hit 17 of 24 in the second half, thanks to its ultra high-percentage shooting. It separated from a tight game in the third quarter and then turned back the Wildcats in the fourth, when Amiri Young's 13 points kept Hammond (15-4) nearby.
"We had the size advantage," Urban said. "Our strength is obviously (playing) inside-out. Jake's so strong and athletic, he's hard to defend when people get spread out. Once we got a little more of a lead, it was difficult for them to stay in a zone. We broke the press and we were able to burn some clock."
Young's 23 points, which included five 3s, led all scorers. Malik Miller scored 16 and Manny Anderson double doubled with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hammond, which was up by as many as seven (21-14) in the second quarter.
"They had like six offensive rebounds and we had seven turnovers in the first half," Urban said. "We limited that in the second half. This was a great game for us to play this time of year."
Josh Matthews' three hoops off the bench kept the Trojans close going to the half.
"We just talked about the things we needed to fix that happened in the first half," Wadding said. "They're as fast as Merrilville. They're just smaller."
Ky Palombizio's steal and layup broke a 31-31 tie in the third and Chesterton (18-2) never trailed again.
"We have some really focused seniors who do a really good job of leading," Urban said. "I'm proud of how they came out in the second half after a rough first half and got the ball where we needed it. This time of year, going into sectionals, everybody's number might be called and they have to be ready to make a play when they're needed to. Josh did and some others did, too."
Tyler Nelson added 10 points for Chesterton, which has won nine in a row heading into Friday's showdown with Valparaiso.