KOUTS | Cody Nelson won one for the Porter County Conference on Friday night.
The Kouts junior barely beat the buzzer on a game-winning shot that gave the Mustangs a thrilling come-from-behind 43-41 victory over Hanover Central and a share of the PCC title.
The Mustangs can clinch the outright title with a win over LaCrosse next Friday. Saturday’s win assured that “The Keg” would stay in the PCC when the Wildcats leave for the Greater South Shore Conference after this season.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” Nelson said minutes after his heroic shot. “This means a lot. It means a lot for Coach (Marty Gaff) and the Keg means a lot. There is a lot of history there and that was important.”
The Mustangs (17-2, 6-0) led 3-2 in the early moments, but fell behind by as many as 10 points to the Wildcats. Hanover seniors Max Johnson and Dan Kubiak each scored nine points in the first half to give the Wildcats a 22-14 halftime lead.
The struggles continued for Kouts into the second half, especially for Max Everaert. The junior missed his first five free throws and had just seven points late into the fourth quarter when he knocked down a 3-pointer that tied the game at 41 and sent the Kouts gym into a frenzy with 2:45 remaining.
“It was really the first time that I was open the whole night and I knew I had to make the shot,” Everaert said. “As I’m taking the shot, I’m thinking ‘Can one of these just go in please?'”
The Wildcats (13-7, 6-1) got two offensive rebounds over the next two minutes to run down some clock, but Johnson missed a drive to the basket with under a minute remaining and Kouts held the ball for the final shot.
Gaff, who is retiring at the end of this season, called timeout with 12 seconds remaining to set up a final play for junior Matt Stewart to get a look in the post. Stewart was double-teamed, leaving the lane open for Nelson to drive to the basket.
“I looked up and saw that there were two seconds left and I figured that was enough time for one dribble and a shot,” Nelson said. “I knew I had to get as close as I could to the basket.”
Nelson scored all 11 of his points after halftime to lead Kouts while Everaert added 10 points and eight rebounds. Johnson had 18 points to lead the Wildcats and Nick Myszkowski added all eight of his points in the second half. The loss snaps Hanover Central's seven-game winning streak in its final PCC game in school history.
“Our mental lapses in the fourth quarter cost us this game,” Hanover Central coach Bryon Clouse said. “It cost us the conference and it cost us the Keg. It wasn’t the effort, it was the mental lapses. Maybe the pressure got to us.”