Next man up. Next game up.
Short-handed Mentor, playing without injured guards Andrew Valeri and Kyle Mcintosh, has taken on the personality of veteran coach Bob Krizancic in that there are no excuses and effort is everything.
Mentor bounced back from a double-overtime loss in the opener to Brunswick with a dominating 75-61 win over host Euclid on Dec. 11. The Cardinals head to Poland Seminary High School to play Austintown Fitch on Dec. 12.
The Panthers (0-6) kept things close for the first six minutes, but an 11-9 Cardinal lead quickly turned into a 22-12 game at the end of the first quarter with a gutsy effort on the glass, rebounding, battling for loose balls and a drawing a pair of drawn charges.
The Mentor lead grew as sophomore Caden Kryz knocked down his third 3-pointer of the first half to extend Mentor’s lead to 45-22 just before halftime. Kryz was one of four Cardinals in double figures along with fellow sophomore Tadas Tatarunas (11), junior Jack Korsok (14) and senior Andrew Robinson (10).
“For playing the young kids, the whole thing — I thought it was a sloppy game — but I thought it was a really good win, especially for the kids,” Krizancic said. “We get Valeri back next week. So to get a win and play sloppy and learn, learning is the biggest thing. I mean, the sophomores really have to learn. Everyone who played.
“You know, we’ve got to finish better, and naturally we’ve got to knock down some shots, but it got really sloppy there. Like I said, when you can get a ‘W,’ especially the way we started the season, with a tough double-overtime loss and all that. I think we’re playing three sophomores, a good percentage of the time, and two juniors with Korsok and Allen (Sims). We’re basically putting five people out with no starters from last year. I’ll take the ‘W.’ ”
Euclid made a 16-8 run in the third quarter to trim Mentor’s lead to 53-40, but the Cardinals quickly opened things back up into the twenties.
Kryz said the win was satisfying and regardless of who is available to play, Mentor must continue to play hard each minute of each game.
“You’ve just got to get on the floor,” the sophomore said. “Whenever you get the opportunity, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, get on the floor, get all the loose balls and rebounds. Do what you can.
“We just needed to win with our two captains on the bench. We came in, we were ready — we needed to get that win.”
With Valeri returning before Christmas and McIntosh in the near future, Krizancic was not shy about his excitement for where the team will end up down the road.
“The whole philosophy was to be really good with Valeri and McIntosh out and then to be able to compete against anybody once they get back, and we’ll see if that happens when they get back,” Krizancic said. “I told Andrew and Kyle that when they come back, you have to demand a much better effort, but for right now — and again, we’re still learning with the juniors and sophomores that we’re throwing on the floor — we’ve just got to escalate the intelligence factor, the basketball IQ as much as the effort.
“If those two things come, you can still miss shots and get boards, get the loose balls and cheap hustle points. I always say we’ll be OK in January, I’ll be really interested to see how we are because I really like this group and the parts that we have right now.”
Euclid’s Quinton Dove led all scorers with 16.