The numbers just didn’t add up for the Mentor Cardinals in a Division I district semifinal vs. Warren Harding at Solon High School.
In 36 minutes, Mentor had 26 turnovers.
Those numbers turned into an equation that left the Cardinals one win away from the district finals as the miscues added up to a 76-69 overtime loss against the Raiders.
Taking plenty of hits early, Mentor (15-10) erased a 13-point first-quarter deficit to eventually take a nine-point fourth-quarter lead. However, it was the Cardinals’ 26 turnovers, along with the strong play of Raiders sophomore Derek Culver, that ended Mentor’s season.
“We had 26 (turnovers). 26 in 36 minutes. We’ve addressed that all year,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said. “We thought we’d be in great shape keeping (the early deficit) basically under 14, 10 would have been absolutely great. That’s why we’ve done what we’ve done in the past, you know, taking care of the basketball. We played hard, played gutty, but you just can’t — especially up nine, with three or four quick turnovers, and you’ve got to take care of the ball. That’s what really good teams do and how you win games like this.”
Senior guard Joey Zaugg scored 22 points to lead Mentor in his final game with the scarlet and gray, but he lamented the mistakes.
“It’s frustrating, and even surprising we made it to overtime,” he said. “We should have won the game in the fourth quarter. The whole season was kind of like this – just a few plays here and there like against South and Shaker Heights and other game. And again we had too many turnovers to beat a good team like Warren Harding.”
Mentor fell behind, 23-11, in the first quarter, but held Warren Harding to five second-quarter points while trimming the deficit to 28-25 at halftime. The Cardinals – behind guards Kyle McIntosh (16 points) and Andrew Valeri grinded their way back in the second half and seemed to have momentum, taking a 41-37 lead on a dunk by junior Micah Potter (13 points).
A three-point play Zaugg gave Mentor their biggest lead of the game at 55-46, but the fourth quarter belonged to Culver, who spurred his team back into the game with a steal that led to a basket from Shakem Johnson that tied the game at 57.
Culver, a Division I college recruit in his sophomore season, finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
“We told our guys you have to play 32 and then 36 and maybe 40,” Krizancic said. “It’s every possession. Even in the OT, down six, they’re shooting two. We cut it to two and had the basketball again and turned it over again. You know, you’ve just got to finish plays. I guess that sounds very simple, but we didn’t finish a lot of plays.
“Joey is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever had. He, actually, I thought played really well considering he hasn’t practiced for the last three days. He’s just a great kid to coach. So, we’ll miss him and the seniors. It’s a tough way to go out.”
Warren Harding will play No. 1 seed Shaker Heights in the district championship game at Solon on March 14.