'Mullen' it over: Seniors lead a balanced attack as unbeaten Chesterton rolls over La Porte
By CJ PETERS
CHESTERTON — Hosting its Senior Night festivities prior to Friday’s Duneland Athletic Conference game, the energy was palpable as Chesterton honored its four seniors – a group that includes multi-year starters in standout floor general Travis Grayson and three-sport stud Chris Mullen.
Fresh off that adrenaline, Mullen came out as hot as the home crowd, hitting two of his four 3s in the first quarter, scoring the Trojans' first 10 points. Even with Mullen’s big opening frame, Chesterton still found itself tied with La Porte after one.
Tyler Parrish’s long ball, one of the team’s 10 3-pointers, began an 11-0 run for Chesterton to start the second that opened up a double-digit lead it wouldn’t relinquish in upending the Slicers, 69-44.
“We just kept doing what we do,” Chesterton coach Marc Urban said. “Obviously, Chris shooting the ball really well helped. We made a few adjustments going into the second with what we were doing with ball screens and I think that helped a little bit.
“When you can score it like that and hold them down defensively, that allows you to build a lead and I thought we just really kept at it. I thought we played pretty well, defended pretty well and for the most part, rebounded pretty well. To win this conference, you gotta rebound everything and that’s something we just gotta keep working with.”
Mullen, who hit all four of his 3-pointers, posted a double-double for the Class 4A No. 2/4 Trojans (12-0, 2-0) with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s huge for us,” Urban said. “The relentlessness that he plays with, practices with, lifts with, and does everything in his life with, that’s just who he is. We see it daily, but if you’ve never seen it, you’re always impressed because of how absolutely relentless he is.
“It’s rubbed off on the other guys, absolutely. His and Travis’ leadership has been off the charts and that’s huge for us.”
Mullen gave credit to Grayson for getting him clean looks throughout.
“Travis was doing a great job,” Mullen said. “We were just playing within our system and we were able to get the shots that we wanted to. We just had to do our jobs and that’s something coach (Urban) over-stressed a lot during the week – just doing our jobs and staying within the system.
“We had a great crowd and there was great energy and we played really well there coming out from the start.”
Out of the half, it was then Grayson’s turn to get going, scoring 13 of his 17 after halftime, hitting a pair of 3s.
“We work hard every day in practice and we want it really bad,” Mullen said. “It’s a whole team effort, not just one guy, and that's what makes this team work like this. We have a very strong bench and the next guy that comes in is going to do his job and that’s the most important thing.”
Sophomores Parrish (three 3s) and Justin Sims were also in double figures, both scoring 11. Sims had 10 in the second half.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Urban said. “We have a really good point guard and shooters and our bigs are good. I think with them playing us the way they were, our bigs were having a lot of success because La Porte was kind of packed in.
“I think that’s what makes us good as well, the fact that our kids take what defenses are giving them.”
La Porte coach Jordan Heckard said there’s a small margin of error playing a team of Chesterton's caliber.
“They’re an excellent defensive team,” he said. “There were a lot of possessions where we may have got shots, but we weren’t patient and getting good shots. In order to beat a team like Chesterton, you gotta value the ball and value your shots and if it’s a minute of possession that’s OK. We got away from that a little bit in the second (quarter).
“Give them credit, they made a ton of shots and shot it really well. They share the ball extremely well. When you take something away from them, they’ll find out what you’re doing and they’ll move the ball.”
The 25-point deficit was the largest loss of the season for the Slicers. For Heckard, the loss proved to be a bit of a measuring-stick game.
“It’s one of those that we will hopefully look back on in March and see that we did some really good things as a whole,” Heckard said. “I thought our effort and intensity was really good, but there are some things we need to clean up. If we’re gonna compete for a sectional, there has to be some things we need to get better at and the best part about that is that we have six weeks to get after it.
“Chesterton does such a good job of showing you if you’re not quite there in a couple areas. They let you know where you’re at as a team.”
La Porte’s 44 points nearly equaled what Chesterton has allowed per game all year.
“They run their ball screen stuff really well and they know what they’re trying to get,” Urban said of La Porte. “Our positioning in and off the ball screen was important and also being able to guard them individually. I thought we were pretty solid defensively.”
Scoring the first five points of the fourth, the Slicers brought the game within 12. With a chance to get to single digits, it came up empty with Chesterton proceeding to go on a 16-4 run to further the gap.
“If we make a play then we feel pretty good there with seven and a half minutes to go,” Heckard said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to.”
Grant Ott-Large paced the Slicers (7-5, 1-1) with 19 points and nine rebounds, while fellow post Tommy Samuelson added 11 points. Malik Corley (four assists, three steals) and Kyle Kirkham scored six apiece.
Six-foot-five sophomore wing Rylan Kieszkowski was unavailable for the game due to sickness.
“It’s nice to get some easy buckets any chance you can and we were finishing,” Heckard said. “For the most part, we hit the boards really well. They just keep coming at you though, and then we get tired.
“It’s a challenge, no doubt.”
Chris Mullen of Chesterton is guarded by La Porte's Evan Cizewski in Friday's Duneland Conference game. The Trojans remained undefeated with a 69-44 win. Photo by Jay Anglin
Travis Grayson of Chesterton guards La Porte's Malik Corley in Friday's game at Chesterton. Grayson scored 17 points. Photo by Jay Anglin