By DAVE HANNEMAN
OTTAWA — Zach Kuhlman can talk ’til he’s blue in the face about what it’s like to play tournament basketball.
But the Leipsic senior figures actions speak louder than words.
Kuhlman drained three 3-pointers, scored twice on give-and-go cuts to the basket and scored 15 points in the first quarters, igniting the fast start that powered Leipsic to a 62-43 win over McComb in the first of two Division IV boys sectional basketball semifinals Wednesday at Ottawa-Glandorf’s Robert J. Hermiller Gym.
“I’m really the only guy with any experience playing in the tournament,” said Kuhlman, Leipsic’s second-leading scorer and pivotal sixth man on last year’s state runner-up team. “I knew that if I came out ready to play, those other guys were going to follow me.”
Kuhlman finished with 25 points as Leipsic avenged an overtime loss to McComb in regular-season
Blanchard Valley Conference play, improved to 12-11 and earned a spot opposite Columbus Grove (13-9) in an all-Putnam County League sectional final on Friday.
Columbus Grove crushed Cory-Rawson 60-23 in Wednesday’s second game at O-G.
Kuhlman’s early barrage powered Leipsic to a 31-16 edge at the half. Matt Schroeder then hit two threes and Gavin Cupp, the Vikings’ 6-foot-6 sophomore center, scored twice inside as Leipsic opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run that ballooned the lead to 42-16.
“Zach’s a special player,” said Leipsic coach Scott Maag. “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.
“I thought our defense was our offense because we closed them down really well and made it tough for them to get easy looks. We started getting some easy baskets in transition and it started snowballing. All of a sudden, that basket looks huge.”
Leipsic made 20 of 34 2-point attempts, 26 of 48 shots overall and dominated McComb 42-23 on the boards.
Clay Grubb led McComb with 16 points. But the Panthers made only 3 of 10 shots in the first quarter, and just 5 of 19 in the first half.
“That’s been the story our last month of basketball,” McComb coach Aaron Roth said after the Panthers ended a 12-11 season.
“We’ve tried different lineups, we’ve tried different offenses, we’ve tried different defenses … I probably shouldn’t have put it in their heads, but I said before the game, ‘Hey, we can’t afford to get off to a slow start again tonight.’
“That sums up tournament play, though. Some kids respond well. Other kids are a little nervous. I think nerves got us tonight.”
Columbus Grove certainly showed no jitters in the second game, using 12-0, 11-0 and 10-0 runs to take 14-5, 25-7 and 48-14 leads in quarters one, two and three respectively.
“Cory-Rawson has good half-court stuff, when you let them run it,” said Columbus Grove coach Ryan Stechschulte.
“Our game plan going in was to disrupt it make them more basketball players instead of just running plays. I thought we did a pretty good job of that once we got our feet set and settled in.”
Stechschulte ran wave after wave of players at Cory-Rawson. It paid off.
“That’s hard to overcome, especially when you’re as deep, as athletic and as skilled as they are,” Cory-Rawson coach Aaron Long said after the Hornets bowed out at 7-15. “The big thing is, they don’t lose anything when they rotate other guys in, and that wears on you.”
Jace Darbyshire led Columbus Grove with 10 points. The Bulldogs’ 6-7 senior center Will Vorhees had eight points and seven rebounds before heading to the bench after taking a hard fall late in the game. Grove’s depth were overwhelming, though, with the Bulldogs bench outscoring Cory-Rawson’s subs 34-7.
Ian Moser, one of C-R’s non-starters, led the Hornets with seven points.
Glaser 1-0–2, M. Schroeder 1-0–2, Hanes 2-0–4, Dysert 2-1–6, Shoop 3-1–7, Bryan 1-0–2, Grubb 4-6–16, Adams 0-2–2, Clark 1-0–2. TOTALS: 15-48 10-15–43.
Cupp 4-0–8, M. Schroeder 3-1–9, Haselman 1-0–2, Brown 2-3–7, Scheckelhoff 1-0–2, Kuhlman 11-0–25, R. Schroeder 2-0–5, Lopez 2-0–4. TOTALS: 26-47 4-11–62.
McComb 9 7 8 19 — 43
Leipsic 22 9 20 11 — 62
3-POINT GOALS: McComb 3-16 (Grubb 2, Dysert 1); Leipsic 6-14 (Kuhlman 3, M. Schroeder 2, R. Schroeder).
REBOUNDS: McComb 21 (Hanes 5); Leipsic 34 (Brown 7).
TURNOVERS: McComb 15; Leipsic 17.
COLUMBUS GROVE (13-9)
Grothaus 2-0–5, Darbyshire 4-0–10, Brubaker 2-0-4, Clement 3-0–6, Bogart 1-0-2, Warnecke 2-0-5, Schroeder 1-1–3, Jones 2-1–5, Diller 1-1–3, Kohls 1-1–3, Neu 2-1–6, Vorhees 3-2–8. TOTALS: 24-52 7-14–60.
Moser 3-0–7, Alspach 2-0–5, Risner 3-0–6, Shepler 1-0–3, Miles 1-0–2. TOTALS: .
Columbus Grove 14 18 20 8 — 60
Cory-Rawson 5 5 6 7 — 23
3-POINT GOALS: Columbus Grove 5-14 (Darbyshire 2, Grothaus, Warnecke & Neu); Cory-Rawson 3-14 (Moser, Alspach & Shepler).
REBOUNDS: Columbus Grove 38 (Vorhees 7); Cory-Rawson 25 (Rissner 8).
TURNOVERS: Columbus Grove 11; Cory-Rawson 18.
Send an E-mail to Dave Hanneman