Mentor has been as much a postseason fixture at the Division I Euclid boys basketball tournament over the last two decades as the familiar Panther logo or the legendary Booster Dogs at the concession stand.
That all changes this March for the Cardinals.
After winning 11 district titles in Coach Bob Krizancic’s 21 seasons with Mentor, the Cardinals will play for the Solon District championship this postseason. This is the second year for blended district seeding between Solon and Euclid, and as the No. 7 seed, Krizancic selected a sectional semifinal game in the bottom of the Solon district which guaranteed for the first time since he took over in 1993-1994 Mentor will not play a tournament game on the big floor at Euclid.
The Cardinals host Chardon in a sectional semi on March 4. The winner advances to play either John Adams or Mayfield. If Mentor beats Chardon, the Cardinals will also host the sectional final on March 7.
“The venue change is the biggest, bizarre thing. We have played 21 years here at Euclid and won 11 district titles so this is different. But, change is good,” Krizancic said. “Going in we figured Shaker Heights being the top seed would go to Solon. We played two close games against them winning over there and losing by a point at home. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but we need three great weeks of practice.”
Mentor has won 7 of the last 10 Euclid district titles, but is going for their first Solon crown in the Krizancic era. Shaker Heights, the No. 1 seed, will play the Riverside-Aurora winner in a sectional final on the top of the bracket. The Maple Heights-North winner will play Madison in the other sectional final.
Warren Harding takes on Euclid in a sectional semi on the bottom half of the bracket with the winner getting No. 26 seed Ashtabula Lakeside in the sectional title game. It sets up a potential Warren Harding-Mentor matchup on March 12 at Solon.
Being in a district semifinal would be familiar territory for the Cardinals, but not being at Euclid will be quite a change.
“I think the bracket shook out very well for us, now we need to go play,” Krizancic said. “We have a chance to play two games at home which is huge. I told our players it isn’t about the other team it is 99 percent about us and what we do. That’s how it has always been.”
In the Euclid District, Garfield Heights is the No. 2 overall seed and has a bye on the top of the bracket. Defending district champ East Tech takes on Shaw in the bottom half of the bracket in a sectional semi.