By BRANDON SHRIDER
LEIPSIC — Arlington has been the pulse of the Blanchard Valley Conference for much of the season.
But it was the stereo in the home locker room that pulsated Thursday night in Leipsic.
Using a second-quarter defensive adjustment, timely shooting and late-game effort, the sub-.500 Vikings spoiled conference-leading Arlington’s attempt to claim its first BVC title in five seasons with a 38-36 win over the Red Devils.
“Our guys have battled and played a lot of good teams well and came up short,” Leipsic coach Chris Kuhlman said. “We’ve been looking for a signature win.”
“There’s a lot of emotion in the locker room to say the least.”
Leipsic improved to 10-11 overall and 7-4 in the BVC with one regular-season game remaining. Arlington, which was playing for at least a share of the BVC title for the first time since 2013-14, will enter the postseason at 16-5 and 9-2.
Tyler Hiegel led Leipsic with 17 points and Dylan Schroder added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Arlington got 16 points and seven rebounds from Ivan Berry and 15 points from Jaret Vermillion.
The Red Devils can still earn a share of the league crown if Arcadia can manage a win over Van Buren (9-1) today. If that happens, Pandora-Gilboa (8-2) could force a three-way tie for the title with a win over McComb today.
Arlington appeared ready to make a statement early and secure the league title.
Berry scored seven first-quarter points, while Vermillion opened the game with a triple and made another from the right wing to start the second-quarter scoring with a 15-9 lead after forcing five turnovers in the opening frame.
Kuhlman, though, opted to extend his team’s zone pressure to more a of a three-quarter court look in the second frame, and the Vikings responded with a 12-0 run to end the half.
Kaiden Rader opened the run with his only three points of the game, Hiegel buried one of his game-high five 3s and Schroeder scored five including a power move in the paint with five seconds left to cap the effort for a 21-15 lead.
“They put us on our heels for a little bit. We weren’t as aggressive as what we have been against that. It just made our possessions a little bit tougher,” Arlington coach Jason Vermillion said.
“I tip my hat to (Leipsic’s) effort. A lot on the line, we just had a lot of empty offensive possessions.”
Arlington’s 36 points were the fewest it has scored in a game this season.
Schroeder came out of halftime looking to bury the Red Devils scoring the first seven points and capping his surge with a swat in the paint on the other end. Following a Leipsic timeout, Hiegel knocked down a pair of 3s, the latter in the face of a Jacob Russell closeout to push the Vikings ahead 34-17.
One of the conference’s best teams, which scores nearly 55 points per game, did not go quietly.
Vermillion hit his third and final 3-pointer from the right corner and hit a pair of foul shots soon after to spark an Arlington run. Berry then muscled up an and-one finish — giving senior captain Cole Rieman his fourth foul.
Russell capitalized on one of Leipsic’s 20 turnovers with a transition eurostep layup before Berry and Vermillion each sunk a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 34-32 with 2:44 to play.
“We really wanted the clock to tick,” Kuhlman said. “What was going through my head was ‘come on, somebody make one more big play.’ It felt like we were one more big play away.”
Twenty seconds later, Kaiden Rader went to the foul line for a one-and-one. His first toss bounced off the left side of the rim, but he scurried into the paint, snagged his own rebound and found an open Hiegel atop the arc for a back-breaking triple and a 37-32 lead.
“Kaiden, he’s not a great offensive player he’ll admit, but he makes up for it on the defensive end,” Kuhlman said. “He missed a free throw and wasn’t happy about it, but he hustled in there and made a heck of a play for us.”
Vermillion noted a lack of awareness on personnel and came away impressed with Hiegel’s effort.
“We got them on their heels a little bit, but we had some breakdowns,” Jason Vermillion said. “Hiegel got too good of looks and he made us pay. He shot five of seven from behind the arc. That’s pretty impressive in a big game.
“The last one was huge to give them a five-point lead.”
Russell dove for a rebound, slid across the baseline and motioned for a timeout before Jaret Vermillion’s layup with 58 seconds left cut the Vikings’ lead to 37-36.
The schools traded turnovers before Schroeder’s free throw with 23.8 seconds to play pushed the lead back to two.
Arlington committed another turnover with 12 seconds left, but Hiegel’s ensuing foul shot knocked off the iron. Ryan Metzger corralled the rebound, but Berry was called for a push foul on the weak side. Leipsic missed another free throw, but Arlington’s transition layup rolled off the rim and Berry’s putback came after the buzzer.
“We were able to turn them over a little bit, but every time we turned them over we turned it right back over. Even in that 16-4 run, there were turnovers back and forth and we just missed those opportunities,” Vermillion said.
“It’s been a problem for us most of the year is we miss shots inside the paint, close, and it came back to bite us in a big, big game.”
ARLINGTON (16-5, 9-2 BVC)
Berry 6-4–16, Vermillion 4-4–15, Russell 1-0–2, Webb 1-0–2, Metzger 0-1–1, Gast 0-0–0. TOTALS: 12-47 9-11 — 36.
LEIPSIC (10-11, 7-4 BVC)
Hiegel 6-0–17, D. Schroeder 5-2–13, Rader 1-0–3, Gerdeman 1-0–2, Rieman 1-0–2, Liffick 0-1–1, T. Sickmiller 0-0–0, Mangas 0-0–0, Garcia 0-0–0. TOTALS: 14-32 3-8 — 38.
Arlington 12 3 8 13 — 36
Leipsic 9 12 13 4 — 38
3-POINT GOALS: Arlington 3-20 (Vermillion 3); Leipsic 7-15 (Hiegel 5, Schroeder & Rader 1).
REBOUNDS: Arlington 25 (Berry 7); Leipsic 25 (D. Schroeder 11).
TURNOVERS: Arlington 13, Leipsic 20.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Leipsic, 45-29.