Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Second half surge leads Mentor past Bay

However, a 5-0 start to the season is a good place before the new year to begin a discussion on just how good the Cardinals can be.

Mentor displayed its depth and offensive potential once again as the Cardinals beat Bay, 91-70, on Dec. 29 at Mentor High School to move to 5-0. Mentor’s pressure suffocated Bay in the second half and turned a three-point game at halftime into a 20-point lead by the third quarter.

Krizancic said it’s still early to evaluate exactly what Mentor is this season. But he likes the prospects so far with a brutal two-week stretch coming up starting with a Jan. 3 showdown at home vs. Solon.

“If we can go hard every play, that’s our goal,” Krizancic said. “That’s a bear, but if you can play hard every single possession, we’ll get our runs. We’ve got to force tempo. And tempo has been huge for us and will be big moving forward, but we have a lot to clean up and we have to get better.”

After the Cardinals opened the season with a 72-64 win at Brunswick, they’ve averaged 92 points per game and surpassed the 90-point threshold three times. Jack Korsok once again led the Cardinals with 17 points. Caden Kryz hit three 3s and scored 13 points, while Manning Trubisky and Xavier Cheek chipped in 12 points apiece. Starting guard Shane Zalba continues to be a huge factor on both ends of the floor in the undefeated start to the season for Mentor.

A minor halftime adjustment to the defensive press was enough to swing a small three-point edge into a commanding advantage at 72-50 entering the fourth quarter.

Against the Rockets, a Division II state final four team last season, Mentor’s press was exposed early as Bay capitalized in an up-and-down first half. Mentor led, 44-41, at halftime when Krizancic adjusted to 2-2-1 and man-to-man pressures that took away easy chances for the Rockets and in turn created transition baskets that fueled the Cardinals to a 28-point third quarter.

“We weren’t rotating on the press,” Krizancic said. “We should’ve picked off a lot of those 30-, 40-foot lobs and they’re getting great 3s when we’ve got three defensive guys down the floor. We were just slow reacting. In the third quarter, we made them earn every shot which was really good to see.”

Mentor overcame a 3 of 17 mark from 3-point range in the first half to hit seven in the third quarter, and made 10 for the game. The Cardinals got another big game from the bench and displayed a 9- or 10-deep rotation that will be critical moving forward.

Matt Koski and Luke Floreia are playing really well. Chad Blessing and Xavier Cheek are playing really hard right now and they are going to push our starters,” Krizancic said. “Sometimes you try to get away with a few minutes here and there, but we have a lot of guys off the bench who get on the floor now and we don’t lose anything and sometimes we get better.

“We’ve got to improve and shoot the ball better. But I like these pieces and we have a chance to be really good. We have to get into the 80s or 90s on offense which we can do and we feel really good. ….. We have shooters and (shooting 3-for-17) shouldn’t happen in the first half. I think we do have some shooters and you do have to knock down some shots.”

Junior forward Tadas Tatarunas continues to have a solid season and is a key contributor to the Cardinals in the perfect 5-0 beginning to the 2016-2017 campaign.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, 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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