WATCH NOW: Wiremans give Kouts a chance, but Mustangs’ dream season ends as state runners-up
INDIANAPOLIS — A small town with a big dream.
Kouts, making its first state final appearance, had its chances against Barr-Reeve in the Class A state championship Saturday morning at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After the Mustangs missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the first half, senior twins Cale and Cole Wireman jump-started the team in the third quarter.
Cale opened the period with a corner 3 in front of Kouts’ bench, and a few moments later Cole drained back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the Mustangs within striking distance.
“It just came to the fact that we had to just start shooting the ball and not think about it,” Cale said. “Once we hit two or three (shots) I thought, ‘Well, we just need to keep shooting and keep in rhythm and we could easily win this game.'”
But in the end, Kouts, ranked No. 3 in Class A by the Associated Press, didn’t have enough firepower to knock off No. 1 Barr-Reeve. The Vikings led wire-to-wire for a 64-48 victory to capture its second state crown and first since 2015.
The Wiremans’ three straight 3-pointers in the third quarter cut Barr-Reeve’s lead to single digits, trailing 31-23 with 5:25 left in the quarter, and Cale pulled the Mustangs within eight points again at 43-35 with another 3-pointer at the 7:42 mark of the fourth quarter.
However, every time Kouts (29-3) had a spurt, Barr-Reeve (29-2) had an answer.
Following Cale’s 3-pointer, his third of the day, the Vikings went on a 14-4 run to shut the door on a Mustangs comeback and bring Kouts’ dream season to a bittersweet end.
“This is something we’ve never been a part of and never experienced, and they were a really good defensive team,” Cole said. “Some nights the shots will fall and you’ll get a rhythm, but Barr-Reeve is pretty good at keeping tempo and keeping you out of rhythm.”
Cole and Cale paced the Mustangs with 21 points and 15 points on 8-of-18 shooting and 5-of-21 shooting, respectively. The star guards received a standing ovation from the Kouts faithful when they were subbed out of their last high school game with 22.2 seconds left.
“It was a fun year,” Cole said. “Our goal was to get to Indianapolis and win a game, and we gave it our best shot. It was just a really fun year with our community backing us and having such great support and having such a great team to play with.”
Cole, Porter County’s all-time leading scorer, finished his prep career with 2,141 points, which ranks 32nd all-time in Indiana boys basketball history. According to John Harrell, the senior’s 50 combined points at semistate and state are the most by a Class A player in 16 years.
Coming into the season finale, Kouts was well aware that Barr-Reeve had a standout player, too, in 6-foot-9 forward Curt Hopf. The Bellarmine recruit guided the Vikings with a game-high 23 points and Class A state final-record 19 rebounds.
“I give a lot of credit to my guys. They didn’t quit and played hard until the end,” Kouts coach Kevin Duzan said. “Cole went down there at the end and battled against Hopf, giving up 6 or 7 inches, and he played him tough. But that wasn’t a recipe for success long term.”
Junior forward Hagen Knepp added 16 points and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Devin Graber chipped in with 13 points and three assists for Barr-Reeve.
Kouts’ other set of senior twins, Parker and Hunter Kneifel, scored six points and four points, respectively.
“We walked into this game (Saturday) thinking we were going to be state champs,” Duzan said. “Nobody around the state really gave us that chance, but I told these guys that it didn’t matter what anybody else around the state said, it mattered what the guys putting on these jerseys believed.
“And we believed.”