PREPS: Grant asserts itself to sink West Salem
Darius Guinn had never played at Chiles Center.
But the Grant forward was familiar with the challenge he faced in Thursday's state quarterfinal at the University of Portland.
Slow down West Salem's Kyle Greeley.
Guinn said he and Greeley, a Portland State commit, have been battling since about the third grade.
"Me and Kyle grew up together. We've been doing this for a long time. Playing guys like that is a real fun experience," Guinn said after his defense helped the Generals into the Class 6A boys basketball semifinals with a 72-57 win over West Salem.
"I'm always confident in my defensive ability," Guinn said. "I know he's one of the best scorers in the state — if not the best — so my focus was limiting his shot attempts and good shots."
Guinn, Damon Hikock and Grant Ewell Jr. took turns guarding Greeley. West Salem's go-to guy, Greeley scored a game-high 31 points. But the 6-5 senior was unable to keep pace with the Generals during a 17-2 Grant surge that turned a one-point West Salem lead into a 14-point Grant advantage by the end of the third quarter.
Grant (20-4) led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter and advanced to Friday's 8:30 p.m. semifinal. The No. 2-ranked Generals will meet familiar foe Lincoln.
Against West Salem (19-7), Grant asserted itself at both ends of the court in the second half. Other than a momentum-building 3-pointer from Aaron Deloney early in the third quarter, all of Grant's second-half points came from attacking the basket to either score, create a second chance or draw a foul.
As a result, Kelton Samore scored 18 of his team-high 25 points in the second half for Grant.
"At halftime, we talked about having a bigger team length-wise, so we should just take it inside," said Ty Rankin, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. "They don't have shot blockers, so we just exploited that."
Samore became a focal point, grabbing seven rebounds and getting to the foul line 11 times in the second half (making nine). The Generals' offensive assertiveness put the Titans in quick foul trouble.
West Salem went nearly six minutes in the third quarter without a field goal as Grant took command.
Hikock's seven first-half rebounds and two 3-pointers apiece from Deloney and Ty Rankin helped Grant to a 34-30 halftime lead.
"At halftime, we came in and said we had to buckle up on defense and get stops," said Deloney, who finished with 23 points. "And (on offense) attack the basket and create from inside out."
For Grant, Thursday's win was just another piece of business. It avenged an overtime loss to West Salem in last year's fourth-place game at Chiles Center and kept the Generals on track for their dream of playing in the state championship game.
"Having three of the final four teams says a lot about the PIL," Guinn said. "We've got a lot of competitive teams. We know we have to come out ready tomorrow against Lincoln. They're a tough team. We beat them twice so they're going to want to come out and get us."