CEDAR LAKE | Kouts' Max Everaert made sure Hanover Central's Nick Bollenbacher wouldn't be able to take the final shot.
Nursing a one-point lead with seven seconds to go, Everaert face-guarded Bollenbacher all the way down the floor and kept him from touching the ball in Hanover's final possession. Dan Kubiak took the final shot for the Wildcats, and his off-balance 3-pointer at the horn was no good as Kouts held on for an 81-80 victory Friday to claim at least a share of the Porter County Conference title.
"We were trying everything we could do to keep the ball out of Nick's hands," Kouts coach Marty Gaff said.
"He's much quicker than me. I just did everything I could to deny him the ball," Everaert said. "He probably would have knocked it down if he had gotten the shot."
Bollenbacher scored 17 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter. He had a chance to tie the game with 14.9 seconds to play, but he split a pair of free throws. Andrew Birky rebounded the miss for the Times No. 8 Mustangs (14-3, 6-0 PCC).
"It was a good, hard, gutty team win. I'm really proud of our guys tonight," Gaff said.
Kouts' Nick Taylor missed a pair of free throws with seven seconds left to give the Wildcats (10-7, 5-2) one more chance, but Hanover couldn't come away with a basket.
The Wildcats, who trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, took their only lead of the game at 73-71 with 2:28 left to play on a Bollenbacher jumper.
"Nick just turned it up in the second half and tried to make them stop him, and that's what brought us back," Hanover Central coach Rod Bollenbacher said.
Taylor answered for the Mustangs on the ensuing possession with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Kouts the lead again.
Bollenbacher tied the game at 76-76 with 1:04 left, but Everaert, who finished with 27 points, scored on a drive to the basket to give Kouts the lead for good with 57 seconds left.
"Max has just been big in big games for us all year, and he sure showed up tonight," Gaff said. "He not only did a good job offensively, but he did a good job defensively that last part of the game against Nick."
Kouts made three of four free throws after both a personal and technical foul were assessed to the Wildcats, which put the Mustangs up 81-76. Bollenbacher scored four points in the final 30 seconds to get the Wildcats within one.
Stephen Keller scored 22 points for the Mustangs, who were 31-of-51 from the field. Birky added 13 points.
Max Johnson scored 21 points for Hanover Central, which finished 10-of-25 from behind the arc.