COLUMBUS - Leipsic wanted to force the issue during their Division IV state semi-final contest against Fairfield Christian.While the Vikings were able to get out and run, Fairfield Christian seemed to be able to repond and keep the game close. In the end the Vikings ability to build leads allowed them to claim a 61-58 win over the Knights in the second Division IV state semi-final at the Schottenstein Center before 10,848 fans.
The win sends the Vikings to the Division IV state title game Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. aganst Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph. VASJ won the first Division IV state semi-final 67-36 over Troy Christian.
Leipsic oustcored the Knights 23-8 in fast-break points Friday afternoon for the game, including a 4-0 edge in the fourth quarter. The fast break points in the final quarter helped Leipsic open up a six point lead after Fairfield had cut a five point deficit to one with 6:37 left.
After two free throws by Farifield's Steven Carpenter pulled the Knights within 47-46, Zach Kuhlman helped the Vikings put together a 7-2 run with a pair of easy baskets in transition. His third basket of the streak was a three-pointer from the right side that had the Vikings up 54-48 with 4:15 left.
Leipsic was up 58-51 with 2:27 left when Kuhlman took a bounce pass and dropped in a layup.
Fairfield Christian made one final run as two free throws by Carpenter and a basket by Justin Potochnik had the Knights within 58-55 with 1:37 left.
With time winding down, Fairfield Christian was forced to put Leipsic at the line. The Vikings wnet to the line seven times but could only convert three of them, the final free throw coming up 17.8 seconds left when Aric Schroeder hit the first of two free throws. During the stretch, the Knights couldn't hit a shot and turned the ball over once as they were unable to put more pressure on Leipsic.
A three-pointer by Carpenter pulled the Knights within three points at 61-58 with 13 seconds left. Leipsic inbounded the ball and dribbled it down floor as they avoided several attempts by the Knights to cause a turnover or foul. Although Devin Mangas turned the ball over, the Knights were unable to get a long shot off before time expired.
Zach Kuhlman led the Vikings with 24 points as he hit 10-of-15 field goal attempts, including 4-of-8 three-pointers. Mangas finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Austin Brown added nine points, but had only one point after the opening quarter.
Carpenter led the Knights with a game high 26 points, while Zach Sullivan had 13 points and Potochnik finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
"Wow," said Leipsic coach Scott Maag after the exciting finish. "We have 13 great kids that battle every day. They believe in what we are doing, they don't care who is the high scorer, they just care about winning basketball games and when you get that, you catch magic in a bottle. We have some guys on here that didn't score, but I know Carpenter and Potochnik are gassed right now. Derek Seffan and Caleb Barrera did a great job defensivelyand we knocked down some shots."
Leispic trailed 5-1 early, but used a 8-0 Austin Brown run to take a 9-5 lead. The Vikings only traled one more time in the game and that happened in the third quarter after a 6-0 run by Fairfield Christian gave the Knights a 32-30 lead after a layup by Zach Sullivan. Leipsic ended the third quarter with a 5-0 run as Zach Kuhlman knocked down a three-pointer and Aric Schroeder came up with a steal and scored just before the buzzer
"The pace was the way we wanted it to be," Maag said. "I don't think we will have any trouble the next game (VASJ)."
"Zach is like a gunslinger. He starts shooting shots and Zach knows when he is in he wants the green light (to shoot). We do take some bad shots sometimes, but you have to take the good with the bad and to Zach's credit he knocked down some big shots tonight. We were able to get several easy baskets. These guys know if they sprint up the floor, they will throw it ahead and I will get an easy basket, so that's how we want to play. That is how we got here. From day one we were fast, fast, fast, attack, attack is what our kids know."