BOWLING GREEN — Everything changed. But everything stayed the same.
Everything changed because Leipsic’s boys basketball team advanced to the state tournament final four for the first time in school history with a 63-54 win over Ottawa Hills in the Division IV boys basketball regional at Bowling Green State University on Friday night.
But everything stayed the same when it came to how the Vikings (24-4) won the game.
They ran, they shot threes, they played pressure defense and they fought yet another taller team to a draw in the rebounding battle. Just like they’ve done all season.
Devin Mangas scored 23 points, Zach Kuhlman put in 16 points off the bench and Austin Brown had 10 points to lead Leipsic.
The Vikings are making their first trip to the state tournament in the modern era. The 1925 team is credited with going to state, but what was called the state tournament back then is similar to today’s regionals.
They will play Lancaster Fairfield Christian (25-2) at 2 p.m. Friday in a Division IV state semifinal.
Leipsic, without a starter taller than the 6-foot, 3-inch Brown, was unfazed by Ottawa Hills’ size from the start.
The Green Bears started a 6-8 player, a 6-6 player and another who was 6-4.
“Our philosophy is if you’re open, shoot it. That’s what we’re built on — attack, attack, attack,” Leipsic coach Scott Maag said. “We are going to do what we do. We haven’t changed anything all year.”
Once Leipsic started to do what it does best, it took the lead halfway through the first quarter and never gave it back.
The seismic shift came in a 6-minute stretch that began when Mangas threw in a 50-footer at the first-quarter buzzer for a 3-pointer, the first of six 3-pointers Leipsic would hit in that time span.
Kuhlman hit four consecutive 3-pointers in the second quarter and Mangas added another. By the time they were finished, Leipsic was up 34-21.
The Vikings, who struggled from 3-point range in a regional semifinal win over Edgerton, connected on 9 of 17 threes on Friday night and were 8 of 12 from long range in the first half.
“It was one of those days where you just feel hot and you can’t miss,” Kuhlman said. “They’re big so we had to play bigger than we are and just run.”
Ottawa Hills coach John Lindsay said, “We knew he (Kuhlman) was a great shooter. We simply lost him. We had guys so concerned about getting back in transition that they lost him.
“We knew from films they’d had some great games (shooting the three). We knew they were capable,” he said.
Geoff Beans, a 6-6 junior, led Ottawa Hills (22-5) with 19 points. Lucas Janowicz, a 6-4 senior, had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and R.J. Coil, a 6-8 junior, had 12 points.
“There were some big boys down there,” Brown said. “We talked about it all week that it came down to stopping the three big guys. We had to stop those big guys and we did exactly what we had to.”
Ottawa Hills had only a 29-26 rebounding edge and Leipsic limited the Green Bears to four offensive rebounds.
Leipsic had a 34-26 halftime lead, was up by seven points, 43-36, after three quarters and stretched its lead to 10 points, 51-41, with 3:28 left in the game.
But Ottawa Hills ran off seven unanswered points, the last three of them on a 3-ball by Beans to cut the lead to 51-48 with 1:22 left on the clock before Leipsic answered with baskets from Caleb Barerra and Mangas on its next two possessions.
After that, it was just a matter of playing out the final 39 seconds and celebrating.
“It’s fantastic. It’s the greatest thing ever,” Kuhlman said.
Mangas said, “We just wanted to come out here and make history and that’s what we did. And we’re not done yet.”