By TED RADICK
ARLINGTON — Jason Vermillion had to make an early decision he didn’t want to make.
The Arlington boys basketball coach had senior point guard Andrew Hunter sitting next to him in the first quarter, saddled with two fouls barely three minutes into Friday’s Blanchard Valley Conference game against Leipsic.
The Vikings, smelling blood, burst to a 13-5 lead. Back in came Hunter, and the Red Devils (10-2, 7-0 BVC) settled down and grinded out a 62-42 victory to keep their spot atop the league standings.
“At one time he had two (fouls), and they had penetration come in,” Vermillion said. “He almost had No. 3 early in the second quarter, which would have been a killer.
“There’s no secret. Andrew on the floor for us is a good thing, and if he’s not we’re going to have some issues.”
Hunter scored just six points. But his worth to his team was noticeable once he returned to the game after several minutes on the bench. Arlington didn’t turn the ball over a single time in a decisive second quarter as the Red Devils flipped a deficit that had reached nine points late in the first quarter to a 30-24 halftime lead.
“They did a good job of coming out and coming right at us,” Hunter said. “They did a good job of getting us in foul trouble right away.”
Leipsic, in fact, was already in the bonus by the time the first quarter ended.
“All the foul trouble we had to overcome is a testament to all the guys who gave us minutes in the first half to keep it close, and ultimately take the lead in the second quarter.” Vermillion said.
Hunter wasn’t the only Arlington player with foul trouble. Post Michael Blunk had to sit for a while with a pair of fouls, and Vermillion had to go deep into his bench as nine players saw the floor in the first half.
“It hurt us early on,” Hunter said of the foul issues. “Our teammates did a good job of stepping up while we were out. Guys were contributing on offense.”
Arlington did a couple of things to take control in the second quarter. First, they clamped down on Leipsic’s Zach Kuhlman, who had burned the Red Devils for 14 points through the first quarter and a half.
“Zach was really active and we lost him a couple of times,” Vermillion said. “You just can’t lose that kind of player. We’ll face some other scorers like that down the road, but he’s one of the top ones we’ll face all season as far as offensive threats go.”
Then, Arlington found its rhythm on offense. Blake Courtney hit a short jumper midway through the second quarter and Jordan Freed followed with a 3-pointer.
Hunter got to the line and hit a pair of free throws, and another Freed trey completed a 10-2 run that tied the game at 22-22.
What had started so well for Leipsic (7-8, 3-3 BVC) was lost as the momentum turned.
“I wish we could bottle up what we had the first 10 minutes of that game,” Leipsic coach Scott Maag said. “We took away everything they wanted to do, they were frustrated and we were attacking the rim.
“I think we surprised them. We attacked the rim pretty well. All of a sudden, we didn’t do it anymore. We’re not that good offensively to hurt people with our offensive sets. We have to get out in transition and make an extra pass to get a guy an open shot.”
Ridge Baab hit a 3-pointer for Arlington late in the first half and Freed nailed his third trey of the second quarter to put the Red Devils up 30-24 at halftime.
“It’s a huge mental edge,” Vermillion said of the shots to end the half. “With 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, there’s going to be some doubts about ‘can we get this thing done.’ They persevered through it, made some plays at the end and this is a quality win for us.”
Arlington got it inside to Blunk in the second half, and the senior scored 11 of his team-best 17 points after halftime. Freed finished with 15 points, all coming on 3-point shots.
“The second half, we didn’t attack the rim and we settled for bad shots,” Maag said. “They got out and ran their offense. We talked all week about back screens, and they got layup after layup after layup on us.”
Kuhlman scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Vikings. Leipsic starts three sophomores, has a couple more coming off the bench, and Maag said the experience gap between his ballclub and Arlington was apparent.
“The second half, things started going badly so they threw the ball to Zach,” Maag said. “Four guys stood around, watched and let him try to do everything. To Zach’s credit he tried, but you’re not going to win basketball games with one guy.”
Leipsic (7-8, 3-3 BVC)
Cupp 1-1—3, M. Schroeder 2-4—6, Haselman 2-0—4, Mangas 0-0—0, Brown 3-3—9, Scheckelhoff 0-0—0, Kuhlman 6-7—20, R. Schroeder 0-0—0, Lopez 0-0—0. TOTALS: 14-37 13-24—42.
Arlington (10-2, 7-0 BVC)
Hunter 2-2—6, Freed 5-0—15, Starr 4-0—9, Blunk 5-7—17, Courtney 2-2—6, McDowell 1-0—2, Babb 1-0—3, Green 0-0—0, Glick 0-1—1, Speyer 1-1—3. TOTALS: 21-48 13-14—62.
Leipsic 14 10 10 8 — 42
Arlington 8 22 10 22 — 62
3-Point GOALS: Leipsic 1-6 (Kuhlman); Arlington 7-22 (Freed 5, Starr, Babb).
rebounds: Leipsic 30 (Brown 8); Arlington 24 (Blunk 6).
turnovers: Leipsic 13, Arlington 8.
junior varsity: Arlington, 33-24.