CEDAR LAKE | At halftime of Hanover Central home basketball games, fans can pay $1 each to take a shot with the basketball and win a two-liter bottle of soda if they convert a 3-point try.
“Mr. Harrison’s Pop a Shot” is a popular activity and a quick fundraiser for an athletics program that is on the verge of playing varsity football.
Visiting Hebron, by rules of the game, only earned three soda bottles in the first half, and the host Wildcats earned gallon after gallon of high fructose corn syrup and bubbles as they dominated their Porter County Conference opener with a 60-30 homecoming victory.
Hanover senior Dan Kubiak was so handy on the court that he subbed at the last minute to distribute the spoils of victory to the homecoming king and queen after the boys game, which opened a boys-girls varsity doubleheader.
“It was an awesome atmosphere tonight,” Kubiak said. “All the crowd was excited, and every time we made a big play I could just feel it.”
There were several big plays from a frenetic Hanover halfcourt offense, but once Hanover (3-0, 1-0) went up 27-7 in the second quarter on a pair of technical free throws, the only thing left to do was stifle several Hebron runs and await the homecoming winners.
Kubiak put Hanover up 40-20 with one of his four 3-pointers (the team had eight); another 3 put his team in the 50s in the third quarter.
The 6-foot-3 wing player had a game-high 16 points to go with six rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“He’s a guy who they said would be too soft to play for me because I’m too hard a coach,” first-year Hanover Central coach Bryon Clouse said.
“Now I can’t take him off the floor. He rebounds, defends, shoots and handles the ball. He earned his way in there, and he’s not going to come out.”
Max Johnson had 15 for Hanover, all in the first half as the Wildcats took a 30-11 lead. Jeremy Pedersoli added 13.
“I felt like Hebron was trying to claw back, and every time we play them there’s a rivalry going on all game,” Kubiak said. “I did my thing getting rebounds and trying to hit big shots. Once we just boxed out and pressured the ball we were getting in a groove.”
Defensively, Clouse and assistant coach Bob Punter’s scheme and rugged adherence to pre-established rules limited the Hawks to outside looks, and Hebron (1-3, 0-2) missed its first six field goal attempts and hit just three in the first half.
“We just ran our basic man-to-man, but our man-to-man is designed to clog the paint,” Clouse said. “We would rather a team beat us by making a lot of 3-pointers than a lot of layups.”
The only Hawks player getting consistent penetration was sophomore Bryce Hanaway, who had 14 points and three steals.
There were 46 fouls called in a friskily played game, and Hebron coach John Steinhilber felt some weren’t called on some early 3-point makes by the Wildcats, which prompted him to complain enough to receive a technical foul.
The Hawks converted just 12 of 25 foul shots.
“We’re still trying to figure out a lot of things,” Steinhilber said.
“We’re replacing a lot of guys. We’re going to show up to Saturday practice and work hard.”