Boys basketball: Max Johnson leads Hanover to PCC championship
By Brian hedger Post-Tribune correspondent January 19, 2013 11:37PM
VALPARAISO — It could’ve been disastrous.
Instead, Hanover Central overcame the loss of 6-foot-7 forward Sean Kelly to foul trouble early in the third quarter of Saturday night’s Porter County Conference championship game against Kouts and found a way to edge the Mustangs 64-60 at Boone Grove High School.
Led by 26 points and seven rebounds from senior guard Max Johnson, the Wildcats (9-6) took home the trophy in their last conference tournament appearance. Hanover Central is leaving the PCC after this season, after the conference pushed up the Wildcats’ planned exit date by a year.
“The PCC’s kicking us out, so we had to go out with a bang,” Johnson said. “I was happy doing this my freshman year, but I didn’t get to play. I just remember waiting every year since then hoping I’d get to do it.”
It wasn’t easy. Kelly picked up his third and fourth fouls back-to-back just two minutes into the third quarter, which prompted him to shout something near the official and draw a technical foul, which was his fifth of the game.
The Wildcats (9-6) led just 30-27 at the time and it seemed like a huge momentum shift for Kouts (13-2) — which used Kelly’s foul woes in the first quarter to take an 18-12 lead after Hanover Central started the game by racing to an 11-3 lead.
Instead of letting his team wilt, Johnson took over. He scored 12 points in the third, with nine coming after Kelly’s exit. Jeremy Pedersoli (13 points) and Nick Myszkowski (8 points) also picked it up in the absence of their biggest post presence.
The Wildcats built a 49-41 lead to start the fourth and staved off a furious comeback by the Mustangs in the fourth — sealing it with just enough foul shots down the stretch. Johnson was held to just three points in the fourth, but his teammates hit 9 of 16 free throws to stave off the surging Mustangs — who were led by Max Everaert’s 22 points.
“Their intensity was good all night,” Kouts coach Mart Gaff said of the Wildcats. “They really played hard. Max Johnson just had a great night.”