Never leave anything to chance.
Mentor learned that difficult lesson on Feb. 7 at South.
The Cardinals appeared poised for a hard-fought win with 2.1 seconds left after a pair of free throws by senior Joey Zaugg, but Rebels guard Jack Whitaker hit a halfcourt 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift South to a 78-76 win, stunning Mentor and setting off a raucous home celebration.
“It was a low-percentage shot, but we didn’t play particularly well and it is a lesson you can’t just play in spurts, you have to play hard for 32 minutes,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said.
“We wanted to keep everyone in front of us, and we didn’t. It is a very disappointing loss. We wanted to play well after the Shaker loss (Feb. 6) and every possession is important. They played really hard, they always do, but you don’t want it to come down to one shot and that is what happened. You don’t want to say it was luck, we put ourselves in that position.”
Zaugg (19 points) gave the Cardinals a 74-73 lead with 25 seconds remaining on two foul shots, but on the ensuing possession a layup from South’s Dan Danford rimmed out before Paul Sateika rebounded the ball and was fouled. The officiating crew determined 6-foot-9 junior Micah Potter slapped the backboard while the ball was still in the cylinder, ruling the Danford miss was basket interference that gave the Rebels a 75-74 lead.
“The ball hit the backboard and was coming down,” South head coach Roy Infalvi Jr. said. “After it hits the backboard coming down into the cylinder, you can’t hit the backboard and shake it, and that’s what was determined. I’m pretty happy that the refs were able to talk about it. That call wasn’t initially made, but they met and they did the right thing and they made the right call.”
Mentor (10-7) advanced the ball and called a timeout with 3.4 seconds left. After the stoppage, Zaugg was fouled on a set inbounds play and made both free throws. South inbounded the ball after a timeout and Whitaker drained a halfcourt shot for the win.
“This is very disappointing, now we will see how tough we are and we have to win a big game,” Krizancic said.
The game had 22 lead changes, two of which came on buckets from Potter — the game’s leading scorer with 35 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the free throw line — and South senior Anthony Coleman, who led South with 29 points. Potter had a double-double, adding 18 rebounds.
“You can’t give up that many points,” Krizancic said. “Defensively, a lot of breakdowns. We missed two key one-and-ones in the middle of the fourth. I don’t think we shot the ball well. Not sure what our shot percentage was, but we had some great looks, we missed them.
“We’re an average team right now. We’ve had moments, we’ve had spurts. You know, it’s tough losing two games on the last shot in one weekend.”
Mentor lost at home to Shaker Heights on Feb. 6, missing a potential game-winner the buzzer.
South (16-1) extended its winning streak to 11. The only loss was to Richmond Heights on Dec. 29 in the first round of the Brush Holiday Tournament.
Kyle McIntosh had seven points for the Cardinals and Austin Koss came off the bench to chip in six for Mentor, which trailed by four at halftime before rallying for the lead to start the fourth.