Grayson states his case: Mr. Basketball hopeful leads Chesterton past Penn for first regional title
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
MICHIGAN CITY -- MVP! MVP! MVP!
The chants poured out from the Chesterton crowd any time Travis Grayson stepped to the free throw line in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Class 4A Michigan City Regional final, then again a bit later when the Trojans senior guard ascended a ladder to cut down some net after guiding his team past Penn 59-48.
While there's no such literal honor in the game, the message was loud and clear on what the sturdy 5-foot-9 guard means to unbeaten and top-ranked Chesterton as it ventures to the state's final four.
"If Travis Grayson isn't in the conversation for Mr. Basketball, then I don't know what's going on," Chesterton coach Marc Urban said. "He's an absolute stud."
The Trojans rode Grayson to their first regional title as he hit 8-of-8 fourth quarter free throws and helped lock up Kingsmen Division-I prospect Markus Burton, who managed just three second-half points.
"Everybody on my team is rooting for me to be Mr. Basketball, and rightfully so. I believe I should get it," Grayson said. "My thing was I just had to stop Burton. He came out pretty hot the first half. He was getting it so easy. I had two fouls early, so I had to switch off. I wasn't going to singly let him beat my team. I wasn't going to let that happen. I just couldn't go for that. I had to play hard and I had to be smart. I picked up on his moves, what he liked to do, and I keyed in on that."
Burton had 17 points to power Penn to a 26-22 halftime edge. Grayson exited at 1:32 of the first quarter with two fouls and though his absence was brief, the mistake-plagued Trojans struggled to find offense.
"We were bad in the first half," Urban said. "We had 10 turnovers and gave up five offensive rebounds, which you can't do. Burton's really good. We were trying to face guard at times, but I thought we were soft with it, so we challenged them at halftime to get a little more physical."
Urban wasn't going to put Grayson on Burton coming out of the break, but Grayson convinced him otherwise.
"I told Urban, I have him," Grayson said. "I wasn't going to let him score. That was my assignment the rest of the game and I carried out my mission basically. We both have the same amount of quickness. I love playing defense. I love getting up in guys, being able to stop them. That was fun, playing defense against him."
The game was tied at 38 in the fourth when Grayson found Owen Guest and Tyler Parrish for back-to-back 3s.
"Those guys hit some timely 3s," Urban said. "We've got all the confidence in the world in them shooting it."
So does Grayson.
"We got shooters. It's not just me. It's the whole team. When we play loose, we make shots," he said. "when they're keying on me, it leaves everybody open. Whenever we get that halftime talk, we get boosted up, we get energized. We just want to win. (Urban) comes in there and just lets you have it, but in a good way. He just wants us to come out here and fight for our lives to win every single game, continue to play hard, continue to play smart, just dominate everything, every hustle play. Basketball is a game of runs, possession by possession, and obviously the team who wins the most possessions is going to win the game."
After Penn crept within 44-41, Grayson canned six foul shots in a row to push the spread to seven and Chesterton continued to pull away, scoring its final 11 points at the free throw line.
"He stepped it up. He was calm," Urban said. "We just dug in and found ways to get stops. In games, you've got to have guys step up, like George (Vrahoretis) had a big rebound. (Justin Sims is) starting to come along. We've got great senior leadership. We've got a great group of kids who just refuse to lose. It's something these guys have worked for. Our assistants did a great job preparing them. I'm just proud of 'em."
Parrish scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Sims churned out 12 go to with five boards and a couple massive blocks against a Penn front line that rotated 6-6, 6-6, 6-8 and 6-9.
"It was really difficult," Sims said. "I'm a pretty big guy, but they're like 6-8, 6-9. It's different than what I normally face, but Chris (Mullen) goes 100 percent in practice all the time and I think it makes me better. He teaches me how to be a leader so I can take after him. Be confident, be strong, be an athlete. My teammates help me. If I miss a shot, they're like, you're good, you're good. I don't know what that exactly means, but it just clicked. Someone hit a shot and we just got the momentum going. It's pretty awesome to be part of a winning team, especially as a young guy."
Grayson topped all scorers with 22 points, getting an assist from sophomore Greg Guernsey in the form of his shoes. Grayson broke through his right white shoe in the semifinal game, then did it again in his black shoe in the final.
"They're actually a size smaller," he said. "They're hurting. I can't wait to get out of them. Now I've got to buy a new pair of white and black shoes. The thing is I just got those white shoes. I broke through those earlier in the season."
But a couple sore feet weren't going to put a damper on this celebration.
"It's great," Grayson said. "I've worked so hard for this, we've worked so hard for this as a team. I was talking to my coaches before we came this morning, and I told Urban, let's go make history and continue to make history after that. We've just got to keep winning and if we keep winning, we'll continue to make history for the school and that's the biggest thing. It's just amazing. I love winning, I love winning with this group of guys. It's so fun. I thank God for everything. I give him all the glory."
Chesterton will face Kokomo, an upset winner at Logansport, in Saturday's Lafayette Jefferson Semistate.
"This whole town's behind us, we're behind them, we want to continue to fight on, to continue to make memories for them as much as ourselves as well," Grayson said. "It just brings happiness to a town, to everybody, when you're winning. I'm pretty dang happy we won it, but our goal is not regionals. We want to keep with it. Our goal is to get to down there to state."
Chesterton coach Marc Urban shares a hug with Travis Grayson after the Trojans senior guard scored 22 points in Saturday's Class 4A Michigan City Regional championship win over Penn.