PORTAGE — Travis Grayson didn't expect to start for Times No. 4 Chesterton as a freshman. Now, he's the main floor general for a team that will play for a sectional title.
Grayson led Chesterton with 12 points in the Trojans' 36-28 win over Michigan City in the Class 4A Portage Sectional semifinals on Friday.
“He made some big-time plays, and that's what we try to tell these guys all the time: In the tournament, people have got to step up, and it's always gonna be somebody different,” Chesterton coach Marc Urban said. “He's a true point guard.”
Initially, both Grayson and Urban expected junior guard Tyler Nelson to start instead. Nelson has been one of the Trojans' top players this season, but Grayson got his chance when Nelson missed time early in the season with an injury.
Urban said Grayson possesses advanced point guard instincts for a freshman and should emerge as scorer over time. Grayson doesn't just put his head down and drive to the hoop – in fact, scoring isn't his favorite part of basketball.
“It's not really important to me (to score),” Grayson said. “I just like getting my teammates involved. I like facilitating and making everyone better. That's what I really like to do: Get assists.”
Both teams slogged through a sloppy first half marked by travels, forced passes and missed layups. Chesterton jumped out to an 8-3 lead on a tough transition layup by Nelson and took a 15-8 advantage when Jake Wadding attacked the hoop in transition, picked up his dribble early and finished at the rim for a basket and the foul.
Those were the Trojans' only points of the second quarter, however, as Michigan City (10-14) alternated between man and zone defense. Daijon Reddix knocked down a 3 off a feed from Tahari Watson to cut the lead to 15-13 going into halftime. The Wolves played without senior forward Jaivion Reid for what coach John Boyd described as a disciplinary issue.
“We had the perfect game plan,” Boyd said. “We switched defenses on them and gave them a look they hadn't seen, that nobody had seen. We definitely had the defensive effort, but that rim was closed for business for us tonight.”
The same themes continued in the second half, as Chesterton (18-6) slowly opened up a lead. At one point, four of Michigan City's five players in the game went to the floor as the ball caromed around. Nelson finally came up with it and drew a foul, then Grayson nailed a corner 3 to extend the Trojans' lead to seven a few possessions later.
Chesterton's lead fluctuated between three and seven until Grayson cut backdoor for a layup to give his team a nine-point lead late. The Trojans' student section chanted "We want Valpo" as time expired, and it'll get its wish — Chesterton faces Times No. 1 Valparaiso on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“Right now, it doesn't matter how ugly (it is),” Urban said. “It wasn't pretty, but we scrapped and made enough plays.”