Mentor has had the kind of roller-coaster season that sometimes the makes the regular season a grind.
On Feb. 27, the Cardinals made the basketball court an enjoyable place to be again, and they did it largely with their youth movement.
Mentor – which started three juniors and two freshmen – got back to playing its style of basketball and got major contributions from several players in an 81-69 road win at Medina. The victory came three days after a difficult 59-48 home loss to Brunswick, and lifted the spirits of the players and staff with the postseason approaching.
“It was fun again to coach in that game (tonight) and we talked to the guys about getting back to a certain style of play – our style – win or lose,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said.
“Micah (Potter) was phenomenal. He played really well and got out and ran the floor. The two freshmen (Caden Kryz and Tadas Tatarunas) played with poise, didn’t look intimidated and only had one turnover between them which on the road in their first start you love to see. Overall, we played hard for 32 minutes and it was as big a game for us as we have had around in here in a while in terms of a game we needed to play well in after a loss.”
Potter dominated Medina big man and Michigan recruit Jon Teske by scoring 32 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 Division I recruit even stepped out and hit a team-best five 3-pointers for the Cardinals.
Kryz hit the first 3-pointer of the game and knocked down three others to finish with 12 points in his first varsity start. Tatarunas was lauded by both Potter and Krizancic for his hustle and defense.
All of this for Mentor was without the services of All NOC guard Joey Zaugg, who is still out recovering from a concussion.
“The freshman played their butts off tonight and really gave us a big lift. The Brunswick loss was unacceptable, so we needed to bounce back and we did in a big way and now I really think we are back to having fun and the momentum is through the roof,” Potter said.
“I have to say, even though I had a big night and the stats, it was all my teammates. They deserve all the credit for getting me the ball when I was open.”
Mentor (12-9) assumed control of the game by outscoring Medina, 27-15, in the second quarter to take a 14-point lead at halftime.
The Cardinals had 46 points at the break against the Bees three nights after being held to 48 points in the game against Brunswick.
“It was great to see us get 46 points in the first half, 81 for the game, and play at a much better tempo,” Krizancic said. “We ran the floor much better, we were aggressive, we didn’t hesitate. To play well, especially without Joey, was huge for our confidence.”
Andrew Valeri, who continues to improve each game after returning from a thumb injury, scored 16 points for Mentor. Paul Sateika came off the bench and chipped in seven, and Kyle McIntosh scored six for the Cardinals.
Mentor will close the regular season on March 2 when the Cardinals host Collinwood. Mentor opens Division I tournament play on March 4 at home vs. Chardon.