After three brutal games against elite competition at the Next Level Hoop Fest in Nashville over Christmas break, Mentor returned home just in time to play the nightcap of the Play-By-Play Classic at Baldwin Wallace on Jan. 4.
The Cardinals were hoping to get back to playing “Mentor basketball” according to senior guard Joey Zaugg, and they did just that with a resounding 97-62 victory over John Hay.
However, the return to playing basketball the Mentor way took a little longer than the Cardinals would have liked after a tough first half. But, it didn’t take any longer than Mentor coach Bob Krizancic expected.
“Every time we come back from a trip, it’s usually a tremendous experience and the next game is horrible,” Krizancic said. “I don’t know why. You never want to make excuses, but we never, ever play well the holiday trip. I thought the first half was, not lethargic, I thought the energy was pretty good, we just made a lot of really poor decisions.”
An eight-point lead at halftime for Mentor – due in large part to a scrappy effort by an undersized John Hay squad – turned into a 25-point lead in a matter of minutes in the third quarter. The Cardinals forced five steals after halftime and knocked down six 3s to turn a somewhat competitive game into a rout.
By the end of the third, the Mentor bench had emptied and the Cardinals led, 78-50, outscoring John Hay, 32-12, in the game-changing frame.
“In the third quarter, I thought we did a lot of things well,” Krizancic said. “We hit some shots, we really moved the ball well. I think we scored, I’m guessing in the first five or six minutes about 25 points. We talk about getting two runs a half, we had the big run in the third quarter and usually when we can do that, we can control tempo. That was the big thing. We had to get the tempo going and get the press working. Third quarter, if you’re looking at a bright spot, that was it and that was the only thing.”
Zaugg, who was named team MVP by the tournament committee, said the win was something the team needed after a 1-2 trip to Nashville, especially as their next two games are a back-to-back set at home against undefeated Brunswick and at Viking Village against nationally ranked, undefeated Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
“This is something to get us going, something to — I guess you could say, get Mentor basketball back because we’ve been struggling, so we needed a good game before these two,” Zaugg said. “(VASJ,) I think is top-10 in the country now, so we’ve got to come out with the best game we’ve had all year and Brunswick is no joke either, so we just have to come out and do what Mentor basketball does, and we should be OK.”
Eleven players scored in the game for Mentor (7-3) led by Zaugg, Micah Potter (19 points), Paul Sateika (13) and Kyle McIntosh (11).
“We didn’t change anything, I think we just kind of realized what we had to do,” Zaugg said of the second half against John Hay. “The traps and rotations were easier, we saw it in the first half, so I think what we did is just what we know how to do.”