Grayson, Chesterton keep the Vikings at Bay

Grayson drops 40 piece as Trojans hold off Valpo in OT


Justin Sims dunks the basketball during the first half of play

Jacob T. Lukach, Sandscript Director

     The stage had been set for weeks.  If Valparaiso and Chesterton’s basketball teams had told you over the past couple of weeks that they weren’t thinking ahead to this game… it probably wasn’t true.  In the most highly anticipated game in the northern part of Indiana this season, two top ten state ranked teams battled it out for the conference championship.  Valparaiso came into Chesterton with an 18-3 record ranked number seven in the state, also riding an 18 game DAC winning streak, and were the defending sectional champions.  Chesterton on the other hand, came in 20-0, the number one team in the state, looking to keep their undefeated season afloat.  Something (or someone) had to give Friday night, and that someone was Chesterton star and reigning DAC player of the year, Travis Grayson.

     Grayson quite literally put the Trojans on his back on a night where the lights were bright, and unfortunately, some shots, namely three pointers, were not falling for the rest of the Trojans.  Chesterton came into the game with great shooting percentages, but much like the game against Portage the previous Friday, their opponent’s strategy focused on taking that away. What looked like a “we’re gonna let their best player get his, and stop everyone else” sort of strategy by the Vikings, didn’t work out as Grayson went for 40 of the team’s 60 total points and tacked on 4 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in the process.

     “His ability to make decisions, his decision making, when he makes the right decision at the right times,” Chesterton Coach Marc Urban responded when asked what makes Grayson so tough. “He gets in a decision making zone and makes the right decisions, or makes others around him better.”

    While it may have seemed a one man show to some, the Trojans received stellar defensive efforts from the team, including Justin Sims, whose timely blocked shots erased a few sure thing Valparaiso buckets.  Sims, who’s been coming on of late (18 points/4 blocks vs Portage, 16 points vs Hammond), finished with 10 points, 3 blocks, and 9 rebounds, and quite a few tipped rebounds to keep possessions alive.  Chris Mullen did a little bit of everything, including guarding and limiting Valpo star Mason Jones: while Jones scored 28 points, Mullen made sure he had to shoot a lot to get them.  

     The Trojans trailed nearly the entire game, just as they had the previous Friday at Portage.  Valpo was never able to pull away even when they had the ball, leading by two, and only 30 seconds left in the game.  Valpo, who has long prided themselves on free throw shooting, didn’t even get a chance to seal the game with free throws, as guard Blaine Dalton attempted to silence the Trojan faithful once and for all. Instead of dribbling out more clock after Valpo had broken Chesterton’s press, Dalton tried throwing an alley oop pass to his teammate, however, he sent the ball caroming off of the backboard and into the hands of an unsuspecting Trojan player.  Chesterton didn’t throw the opportunity away, and found a way to tie the game at 49, sending it to overtime. On the other hand, Grayson didn’t really think that there was a turning “point” during the game, rather, many spots throughout the game that really mattered.  He pointed to a different idea as to why the Trojans prevailed.

      “I think the turning point was really just the whole game, and how hard we fought. I don’t think it was a specific time in the game.  [I think] it was our connectedness and our resilience. We just fought hard,” Grayson explained.

     During the overtime period, the Trojans flipped the script on the Vikings, fouling out arguably their most important player, Breece Walls.  Walls, who finished with 10 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, was the only Valpo player who could comfortably bring the ball against the high pressure defense of Chesterton.  In the end, Grayson put in free throw after free throw (20-22 on the night) to seal the deal for Chesterton.  With about 8 seconds left and down 3 points, Valpo freshman Jack Smiley never really gave Jones a chance, getting him the ball with about a second left, where Jones was unable to even get a shot off before the buzzer.  As the final horn sounded, the Trojans had beaten their rival 60-57, won the DAC, and maintained their number one ranking.

     The stage had been set for weeks… and Chesterton shined brighter last Friday night.  After Sunday’s IHSAA Boys Basketball Sectional Pairings were released, it’s almost a guarantee these two teams will see each other next week in the semi finals. The stage is set yet again, and you better believe the lights will be brighter.