Former Girard coach back in championship

COLUMBUS – Two decades.

That’s how long it’s been since Trumbull County captured its only boys’ state basketball title. Girard shocked most of Ohio by going from being unseeded in the district (back then only the top four teams were ranked) to Division II champions via a 64-57 victory over Columbus Whitehall-Yearling.

The 1993 Indians were led by Bob Krizancic, a young fiery coach who seemed to be the perfect man to mold a team of role players and a great point guard (Philip Huyler) into a championship squad.

Krizancic left after that season to take over the team at Mentor, one of the biggest school districts in the state. While he may deny it, he probably figured he’d soon get to another state title game.

He did.

Two decades later.

Friday night his Mentor team took out previously unbeaten and top-ranked Columbus Northland, 80-69, in a Division I state semifinal. The Cardinals will face Toledo Rogers in tonight’s championship game. Both teams will be seeking the first title in school history.

“Grateful,” Krizancic said when asked to describe the feeling of another title being one win away. “The first time I was so fortunate. This time around I’m just grateful. It’s great when your son is down here also.”

Connor Krizancic is a junior guard for the Cards. He scored 17 points in the victory over Northland.

“He (his father) tells us you’re always going to need a few big plays,” Connor said.

“(The team has) watched the ’93 state championship game a bunch of times. One kid on their team made two big steals down the stretch.”

That kid was 6-foot-3 post player Kris Kelly, an unlikely source of steals. But that was what the Indians were about: contributions from everyone.

“This is my state championship ring,” Krizancic said while holding up his hand. “On the inside is the inscription ‘Together.’ Our players of the ’93 team, before they picked out anything, they said they wanted ‘Together.’

“Kris Kelly still e-mails me. He just said to go and get another one, the ghost of championships past.”

Krizancic actually made the state final four three years ago. His older son, Cole, was a starting guard on that team but the Cardinals failed to reach the final, losing in overtime to Cincinnati Moeller.

This time around Connor hopes to finish the job for his father.

“We all know what an amazing feeling it would be,” he said. “But to watch that ’93 team and see Dad’s emotions, it would be special.”

Bob Krizancic said his team is peaking at the right time.

“The important thing with these young men is they learn,” he said. “We’ve had deficiencies all year. Leadership and work ethic is why we’re here. Other than a couple of weak turnovers tonight, it was our most complete game.”