Cameron Kuhn was willing to do anything to put Vermilion in the Sweet 16.
If that meant scoring at will, and at times carrying his team to the finish line, Kuhn proved he was willing to do it at last week’s Division II Westlake district.
The 6-foot-1 senior scored 67 points in two wins over Medina Buckeye and Parma Heights Holy Name to put the Sailors (19-7) in Thursday’s regional semifinal against No. 2-ranked Norwalk (25-1) at Bowling Green State University.
It is the third district championship for the Sailors, and they have all come in the past seven seasons under coach Kurt Habermehl. Vermilion reached back-to-back regionals in 2007-08 and 2008-09, reaching the championship game in 2009.
“He’s just a tremendous player, we really rely a lot on him,” Habermehl said of Kuhn. “When you think how he’s played the last two games, he’s not forcing anything. He shot 62 percent, so he’s not taking bad shots. Not only has he taken good shots, he’s also averaging almost five assists per game.”
The Sailors opened the sectional tournament with a 67-56 win over 2-win Parma Padua Franciscan. Kuhn’s scoring exploits weren’t needed, and he scored 11 points. But facing a 16-6 Keystone team in the sectional championship, Kuhn scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the final quarter to lead Vermilion to a come-from-behind 45-39 win.
The Sailors were down 37-30 after three quarters, but were able to outscore the Wildcats 15-4 to pull out the win. Kuhn scored 12 of his team’s 15, including going 8-for-10 from the line.
But things really picked up for Kuhn in the district semifinals last Wednesday against Medina Buckeye, the No. 1 seed and odds on favorites to win the district.
Kuhn found himself open on the left wing, and with just over 20 seconds left and his team trailing 72-71, a loose ball rebound deflected right to him, and he connected on a 3-pointer to give the Sailors a 74-72 lead.
Buckeye had two shots in the closing seconds to tie the game, but came up short, setting off a wild celebration. Kuhn finished with a game-high 36 points, which included scoring 20 of his team’s 29 points in the first half.
“It feels awesome,” Kuhn said of a game-winning shot in the tournament. “It was crazy, we knew Buckeye was a really good team going in, but we played our best defensive game, and came out with the win. We still had to lock down after that shot.
“We beat the No. 1 seed, which was motivation for us,” he added. “We were considered underdogs as the fifth seed, so we took it as motivation to go hard every day.”
Kuhn was far from the Sailors’ one-trick pony, however. Kyle Nader added 17 points and eight rebounds in the win over Buckeye, while Forrest Boyd added 13 points.
In Vermilion’s 58-47 win over Holy Name in Saturday’s district championship, Kuhn poured in 31 more points, while Nader added 13.
“I went with the flow of game and what the defense was giving me,” Kuhn said. “I have complete trust in my teammates. Kyle gets us shots, and we play off each other. Same with Forrest. We need him to be active down low, and we need Kyle to drive and finish, and I can do the same.”
But through four tournament games, Kuhn is averaging 25.7 points per game. As Vermilion’s all-time leading scorer, Kuhn enters Thursday with 1,542 career points. Selected as a first-teamer to the All-Northeast Lakes District, he will also be an All-Ohio selection next week.
“He’s just a great teammate, people need to understand that,” Habermehl said. “I’ve coached great players before who weren’t necessarily great teammates. Cameron talks his teammates up more than he does himself. He trusts his teammates, they trust him, and they’ve followed that motto throughout the year.”
Kuhn knows the Sailors have their hands full with Norwalk.
“I know they are a really good team, and if we are going to win, we have to play our best game of the year,” he said. “We decided together as a team at the start of the season, we wrote down things on a goal sheet. One of those goals was to make it to Bowling Green. That was probably the biggest one, and we want to keep going forward … the dream is not over yet.”