Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Craven 3-pointer lifts Mentor to stunning win over Strongsville

For 31 minutes and 59 seconds, Mentor was mostly outplayed by visiting Strongsville on Dec. 18.

However, when it mattered most, Cardinals senior Matt Craven save his best for last.

Craven hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to lift Mentor to a stunning 63-62 win over the Mustangs.

Allen Sims led four Cardinals in double figures with 16 points. Craven (5 points) wasn't anywhere close to double figures in points on the night, but his lone field goal of the evening was the biggest of the year so far for Mentor (3-1), which trailed most of the game.

"The last play kind of broke down and I yelled for Tadas (Tatarunas) to pass the ball. I didn't really have time to think, it was just catch and shoot." Craven said. "I don't know what to say. It still doesn't feel real. I don't think we deserved to win that game. We didn't play well and Strongsville is a very good team. But we will take it and move forward."

The Mustangs led, 61-60, and hit the front end of a 1-and-1 with less than 20 seconds to play. On the miss on the second shot, the Cardinals advanced the ball, got it inside to Tatarunas (8 points) for a possible tying shot, but the sophomore was well defended and made a smart pass to Craven in the corner for the game winner.

Senior point guard Andrew Valeri, returning from a foot injury, came off the bench for 11 huge points in limited minutes and was confident Craven would come through on the last shot.

"We call him World B. Free because when he touches it usually he shoots it and he has a quick release and makes that shot a lot," Valeri said. "I think when he shot, I just looked at the scoreboard because I knew it was going in. That is how confident I was he would make it.

"For me, it was great to get back on the floor, but I know my role on this team and if we lost that game tonight it would have been on me. That is just the way I feel about my responsibility as a leader."

Mentor trailed by 11 in the first half, but cut it to three at the break. The teams were tied at 47 going into the fourth quarter and played an entertaining final 8 minutes punctuated by Craven's shot at the buzzer.

"The best thing about the whole night was our players walked into the locker room and said we got lucky and didn't deserve to win and that is maturity. Their hearts are in the right place and we are going to keep getting better," Krizancic said.

"We put Craven in with 30 seconds left because we thought we might be down 3 and he is a good shooter. It was the only right move I made all night. It is a great for a young team like this to win a game we didn't play well in."

Jack Korsok and Andrew Robinson also hit double digits in points for Mentor, which has won three in a row since a season-opening double-overtime loss to Brunswick.

The win over Strongsville was the first game Valeri played in all year, and the Cardinals are still without senior guard Kyle McIntosh (MCL sprain). 

Steve Hare
Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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