COLUMBUS — "Wow!"
The first word from Leipsic head coach Scott Mangas in the press conference summed up Friday afternoon's Division IV state semifinal game after the Vikings outlasted Fairfield Christian, 61-58.
That word also described the pace of the contest after Leipsic's fast-break style caused problems for the Knights.
"I don't think teams so far in the tournament can run with us for four quarters," Mangas said of his squad's style of play. "Our kids know if they run they can get open shots. We just box and go."
It got Leipsic the lead early on and it helped the Vikings stay in front when the game was on the line at finish time.
Clinging to a 49-48 lead, Zach Kuhlman hit a bank shot and followed that up with a 3-ball from the wing for a 54-48 advantage with 4:15 to play. Justin Potochnik scored for Fairfield Christian but Derek Steffan made a transition bucket six seconds later.
"We were trying to send two guys back but they sent three or four," Potochnik said of Leipsic's ability to score in transition. "We didn't send enough."
The Knights got as close a three points after a Potochnik hoop with 1:38 remaining, but Fairfield Christian could not make another basket until a 3-ball by Steven Carpenter made it 61-58 with 10 seconds left.
"The last two-and-a-half minutes we were right there had we hit a bucket," FC coach Roger Hooper said. "We had opportunities, it just didn't go in the hole and that kind of sealed our fate right there."
Leipsic led much of the first half, taking its biggest lead in the game at 20-12 on a Kuhlman triple with 1:55 to play in an entertaining first quarter. But the Knights battled back for a 32-30 advantage on two straight baskets from Zach Sullivan.
However,14 seconds later Kuhlman, who scored 15 points in the first half and finished with a team-high 24, netted a 3-pointer for a 33-32 lead with 1:34 to go in the opening half and Leipsic never trailed the rest of the way.
"I just run the floor, get open looks and knock them down," noted the 6-2 senior, who doesn't start.
Added Mangas: "He has no conscious. Anyone with a conscious is not going to be a very good shooter. He catches and shoots."
Carpenter scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Knights while Sullivan scored 13.
"We wanted to take away Carpenter, that was our number one key," Mangas admitted. "We didn't want him to get any open looks ... he's a great player.
"But I thought Mitch (Kuhlman) and Austin (Brown) did a great job on Potochnik."
The 6-7 senior had 12 points, six below his season average, for Fairfield Christian, which closes the season at 25-3.
"I just felt it was a classic battle," Hooper said. "It's what athletics should be as far as competing. We knew they were a good team. From out standpoint, we just ran out of time."
Mangas chipped in with 13 points for Leipsic, which advances to the state title game against Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph with a 25-4 mark.
"We made a commitment last June," Maag said. "We had an early exit last year (in the tournament) and we made a pact we were going to be the last team playing. By golly we're the last team playing."