COLUMBUS – Twenty years ago Bob Krizancic coached Girard to the Ohio Division II state basketball title. Saturday night, Krizancic got his second title, this time with Mentor in Division I.
The Cardinals blitzed Toledo Rogers 26-9 in the third quarter to break open what had been a tight game and capture the school’s first state championship, 76-67, in front of a crowd of 9,566 at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena.
Junior Caleb Potter scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while senior Jeff Foreman added 19 points and junior Connor Krizancic 16 points for Mentor. Senior forward Devonte Pratt led Rogers with 23 points, 21 in the first half.
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Mentor (25-5) was ranked No. 8 in the final AP state poll. The Cardinals avenged two regular season losses to Shaker Heights to win its second regional title in four years and then knocked off No. 1 Columbus Northland in the semifinals Friday night to reach the championship game.
Krizancic took over the Mentor program after winning the state title at Girard. His teams have been regulars to the regional tournament – 11 times overall and 10 of the last 13 seasons – but getting to Columbus was more elusive.
“It’s tough,” said Krizancic. “You can never explain it but it’s just an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment in something you did for so many people.”
It is the first state team title for Mentor in any sport since the boys’ soccer team in 1994.
Rogers finishes 21-8. The Rams had knocked off three teams ranked in the final poll, including No. 3 Cincinnati Walnut Hills in the semifinals, but couldn’t add a fourth to their list. Rogers was attempting to become first team from Toledo to win a state championship in any division since Scott beat Cincinnati Woodward 64-53 for the Division I title in 1990.
The Rams lost in the Division II semifinals two years ago against Dayton Dunbar.
They forced 17 turnovers and outscored Walnut Hills 21-7 on points off of turnovers in a 58-51 semifinal victory Friday. Mentor committed just 11 turnovers Saturday and limited the number of fastbreaks for Rogers.
“Their guards are so explosive and (Pratt) didn’t miss, so they were a real scary team,” said Krizancic. “A lot of people were talking about Walnut Hills but I said be careful what you wish for because Rogers was a good basketball team. But once we got the lead I felt good.”
The game featured 15 lead changes and was tied six times before Mentor’s decisive run. Mentor trailed 41-39 in the third quarter when it went on a 16-0 run to grab the lead and control of the game. Rogers trailed by 17 points entering the fourth quarter, 63-46, and was able to cut that deficit under 10 a couple of times but never enough to threaten the eventuality.
“We took bad shots and didn’t rebound,” said Rogers coach Earl Morris. “We stopped doing the things we do. When we lost games in the year we’d always have that one bad quarter that would cost us. Today it was the third.”
The teams each started hot; Rogers led 15-14 at the 4:14 mark of the first quarter when the first media timeout was called. Mentor was had made four of its five field goals, all three-pointers, while Rogers was 6-of-11, including making three of its four attempts from behind the arc. There were eight lead changes in that opening sequence.
Rogers ended the quarter ahead 22-20, shooting 50 percent (9-18) in the process. Senior guard Tony Kynard II scored 25 points against Cincinnati Walnut Hills in the semifinals but didn’t score until making two free throws with 0:06.9 left in the first half to provide the Rams a 37-34 lead they would take into the locker room. Kynard would finish the game with eight points but foul out with 2:44 remaining.
Rogers was in the lead at halftime because Pratt couldn’t miss. He went 9-of-11 from the field, including hitting all three of his three-point attempts.
That didn’t worry Mentor. The Cardinals entered the state tournament averaging 83.7 points per game.
“Coach K told us to keep attacking, keep playing and play with no fear because we knew that we had tempo the whole first half,” said Foreman. “We knew we were going to get that run in the second half so we kept tempo. Once we got that lead we learned from our past games.”
Mentor had held fourth quarter leads in four of its five losses.
“We made them match us and that’s what’s so incredible with this team, that we have guys all over the court who can make plays,” said Foreman.