KOUTS — Kouts scored the first point of the night on a Jake Stewart free-throw.
It would be the Mustangs' only lead of the game.
Times No. 8 21st Century scored the next 11 points and led 36-18 at half as it knocked down seven of its 10 3s in the first two quarters on its way to a 69-54 win at Kouts on Tuesday.
"We haven't got off to that good of a start in a long time, so that was key," 21st Century coach Rodney Williams said. "Getting off to a good start like that really helped our defense, and we were happy about that. We don't want to count on 3s early, but it certainly helped. We'd much rather make layups and then go inside-out."
Working the inside-out game was 6-foot-4 DeAndre Gholston, who rattled of 12 of his 13 first half points in the first quarter as the Cougars led 23-7 after the first quarter.
"We wanted to get back in the win column," he said. "Of course losing feels bad, so we all came together as a team with the coaches and just discussed what we need to do better to win. We've lost in semistate twice in a row and it's getting deep in the season so we need to keep on winning. Playing harder was something we've discussed and we brought good defensive energy tonight.
"Hitting 3s was a major key for us (Tuesday). We started off the season not making as many as we needed, but we've been in the gym a lot shooting and taking those shots seriously. Even though we had lost the last two, it'd been paying off those games."
The Kent State commit knocked down a trio of triples and scored 24 points and snagged 16 rebounds.
"Coach Williams always tells me to start inside-out," Gholston said. "That makes the rim look a lot bigger after I get a couple layups and then work my way out. We have a lot of scorers so I know if I want some more points and shots, I'll have to crash the glass."
The Cougars (12-5) snapped a three-game losing streak and were playing just their third game since January 2nd, having lost to Hammond and Lighthouse.
"We needed some games and we're happy to get back to the games," Williams said. "We played two good teams and we played well in both, we just lost. We're back on pace now, we'll be okay."
A 3-pointer from Melvon Cunningham gave 21st Century an 18-point lead in the third as the Cougars remained out in front comfortably heading into the fourth. Cunningham had 12 points off the bench, all on 3s. Johnell Davis had 13 points and four assists.
"We didn't shoot as many 3s as we had been and I was happy about that because we were going inside and were able to get some easy baskets, I think that helped," Williams said. "We brought more energy defensively and they only had 18 points at halftime and that was key. We played better defense tonight and I was happy with it, but we can still do much better."
21st Century led by as many as 20 points early in the fourth before Cole Wireman began to cook for the home team. The freshman point guard drilled three 3s in the final frame and scored 12 of his team-high 17 in the quarter bringing the Mustangs within nine twice. They would get no closer.
"(21st Century) came in on fire," Kouts coach Kevin Duzan said. "We finally started to make some shots in the fourth. Our defense picked it up a little bit and that really helped us make it a game there for a little bit as we got some turnovers and better looks.
"We were trying to protect the basket a little bit and that didn't help getting down like that early. I told the kids at halftime to challenge ourselves and go out there, compete and see what happens and we made a run at them before they hit a couple 3s to spread it back out. The kids battled hard against a very good team."
Tyler Heimberg added 13 points and six rebounds for the Mustangs (8-5). Dillan Matthes had eight points, nine rebounds and three assists.