Leipsic's Zach Kuhlman (22) pulls up for a  jumper during the Vikings Division IV sectional game against McComb Wednesday night. Kuhlman scored 25 points for the Vikings. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)
Leipsic's Zach Kuhlman (22) pulls up for a jumper during the Vikings Division IV sectional game against McComb Wednesday night. Kuhlman scored 25 points for the Vikings. (Putnam Sentinel/Charlie Warnimont)

OTTAWA — Zach Kuhlman was the only Leipsic player returning to tournament action from the Vikings state finalist team of a season ago.

So it was only fitting that Kuhlman showed his younger teammates the way. Behind Kuhlman's early offensive explosion the younger Vikings were able to settle in and help Leipsic to a 62-43 win over McComb in the Division IV sectional semi-finals Wednesday night at Ottawa-Glandorf.

The Vikings (12-11) advance to face Putnam County League rival Columbus Grove (13-9) Friday night around 8 p.m.

Although Kuhlman was the focus of the McComb defense, the senior scored 15 first quarter points to help the Vikings to a lead they never lost. Kuhlman hit two three-pointers early, around a Gavin Cupp basket, to help put the Vikings up 8-0. After a putback by McComb’s Clay Dysert, Kuhlman added a two-point basket, then hit another three that had the Vikings leading 13-2 with 3:48 left in the opening quarter.

“I just did what I normally do,” Kuhlman said of his early outburst. “I just tried to get open and get the ball in the hole. A lot of these guys never played in a tournament game. I’m the only one with experience playing in tournament, so I knew if I came out ready to go they would follow me.”

“Zach is a special player,” Leipsic coach Scott Maag said. “When he got it going, when he started hitting big shots to get us that early lead, I think that took a lot of pressure off our young kids.”

McComb scored five straight points to get within 13-7 before Kuhlman scored on a layup on a give and go, before Jordan Brown converted a three point play. Another basket by Kuhlman and a Neil Haselman jumper had the Viking up 22-9.

While Leipsic was hitting 9-of-14 shots, with three three-pointers, McComb struggled shooting as they were 3-of-11 in the opening quarter and 2-of-9 from the floor in the second quarter. For the game, McComb was 15-of-48 shooting, while the Vikings were 20-of-33 from two-point range.

“I thought our defense was our offense because we closed them down really well and made it tough for them to get good looks,” Maag said. “We started getting some easy baskets in transition and it started snowballing. All of sudden, that basket looks huge.”

McComb was within 26-14 in the second quarter before the Vikings closed the second quarter with a 7-2 run for a 31-16 halftime lead. Leipsic went on a 14-2 run to start the third quarter as Matt Schroeder had eight points in the run as he drained a pair of three-pointers.

“That's been the story of our last month of basketball,” McComb coach Aaron Roth said.  “We've tried different lineups, we tried different offenses, we tried different defenses; I probably even should have put in their heads, but before we went out I said we cant afford to get off to a slow start. I thought we had good defense on Kuhlman that first possession and he hits a  big shot from the corner. But we missed so many easy shots and it snowballed after that. The second half we tried to do what we could to make it interesting.”

After Kuhlman's 25 points, Matt Schroeder finished with nine and Cupp had eight points. Jordan Brown had seven points and seven rebounds.

Clay Grubb led the Panthers with 16 points and Chas Shoop had seven points. Trey Hanes pulled down five rebounds.

* * *

Leipsic 26-47 4-11 62: Cupp 4-0-8; M. Schroeder 3-1-9; Haselman 1-0-2; G. Schroeder 0-0-0; Mangas 0-0-0; Hiegel 0-0-0; Brown 2-3-7; Scheckelhoff 1-0-2; Kuhlman 11-0-25; R. Schroeder 2-0-5; Lopez 2-0-4.

McComb 15-48 10-15 43: Reardon 0-0-0; Glaser 1-0-2; Schroeder 1-0-2; Hanes 2-0-4; Beeson 0-0-0; Dysert 2-1-6; Shoop 3-1-7; Siferd 0-0-0; Bryan 1-0-2; Grubb 4-6-16; Adams 0-2-2; Clark 1-0-2.

Leipsic 22 9 20 11 - 62

McComb 9 7 8 19 - 43

Three-point goals: Leipsic 6-14 (Kuhlman 3, M. Schroeder 2, R. Schroeder 1); McComb 3-16 (Grubb 2, Dysert 1).

Rebounds: Leipsic 34 (Brown 7); McComb 21 (Hanes 5).

Turnovers: Leipsic 15, McComb 15.