LEIPSIC — Eighty-eight years ago players like Bob Hutton, Bill Wagner and Oscar Robinson energized the town of Leipsic by leading the boys basketball team to the 1925 state tournament.
Nine decades later, that same energy, probably magnified several times, is back, even if any remaining trophies from that season aren’t as easy to locate.
When Leipsic (24-4) plays Lancaster Fairfield Christian Academy (24-2) at 2 p.m. Friday in a Division IV state semifinal, it will be the first time since 1925 the Vikings have played at state. And since the 1925 tournament brought together eight teams in two divisions, this year’s team has already gone beyond where any other Leipsic team has been.
Leipsic coach Scott Maag said he tried to find trophies from that season recently but the search was unsuccessful.
“I looked around and didn’t see anything,” he said. “I looked for some trophies the other day when we were in there and couldn’t find anything. I know our kids are excited, our town is excited. It’s something we’ve never been a part of.”
When Leipsic takes the court Friday it will be playing against another state tournament newcomer.
Fairfield Christian is making its first state tournament appearance. The school has been in existence only since 1998.
The Knights are led by 6-foot, 3-inch guard Steven Carpenter (20.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists) and 6-7 post player Justin Potochnik (18.4 points, 11.3 rebounds). Their two losses came against Division III regional runner-up Bloom-Carroll and Newark Catholic, a team it beat when they met again in the district championship.
“The No. 1 key is stopping the Carpenter kid,” Maag said. “He’s a great shooter, a great foul shooter, can shoot the ball deep and gets to the paint with either hand.
“No. 2, or maybe No. 1-A, is controlling Potochnik. He’s a great shot blocker. He has rare ability in how he can time his jump. He distracts so many shots in the paint.
“They’re going to get their points but we have to limit the shots they get, limit the open looks. We have to contest every shot. We have to force our tempo offensively and defensively and make the game fast. We have to use our athleticism and depth,” Maag said.
Fairfield Christian coach Roger Hooper says the ideal scenario for his team would be the opposite of what Leipsic wants.
“We need to try to slow their tempo down. We’re going to have to control the tempo of the game if we can. We’re going to have to play great defense,” Hooper said.
Senior guard Devin Mangas (18.0 points, 3.6 rebounds) leads Leipsic in scoring. Post player Austin Brown, a 6-3 senior, averages 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Caleb Barerra (6.3 points) and Derek Steffan (5.4 points) are the defensive stoppers and Aric Schroeder (4.3 points, 5 assists) is the point guard. Zach Kuhlman (12.4 points) is an offensive threat off the bench.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (23-4) will play Troy Christian (26-2) at 10:45 a.m. Friday in the other Division IV semifinal.
— Leipsic’s Caleb Barerra scored a 35 on the ACT (36 is a perfect score), Maag said. Barerra has been accepted at the University of Michigan and recently met with an admissions officer from Harvard University.
— Maag was the JV coach when Ottawa-Glandorf won the 2004 Division II state title and was the Titans’ freshman coach when they were state runner-up in 1996.
— Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak says one of his first memories is watching Clark Kellogg play for Cleveland St. Joseph in the state tournament in 1979 when his father, Tedd Kwasniak, was St. Joseph’s coach. The younger Kwasniak was 4 years old in 1979.
St. Joseph won four state titles in the 1990s and is in the state tournament for the 12th time. Tedd Kwasniak is one of his son’s assistant coaches.
Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki is also a coach’s son. His dad, Ray Zawadzki Sr., won 515 games in 36 seasons at Vandalia Butler.
— Troy Christian’s six wins in the tournament this season matches the total number of postseason wins it had before this year.
The Eagles came back from 10 points down in the third quarter to beat Delphos St. John’s in their regional championship game last week. They also overcame deficits of 14 points and 17 points to win regular-season games over Dayton Christian and The Miami Valley School.