Twenty years in the making
COLUMBUS – As Mentor point guard Jeff Foreman was leaving the court Saturday night, he raced past the bleachers high-fiving some fans, hugged a cheerleader and ran up the tunnel towards the locker room.
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” Foreman said to himself.
He could have been talking about the feeling of winning the first state basketball championship for the school, something the Cardinals did via a 76-67 victory over Toledo Rogers in the Division I title game.
But that same word was probably uttered many times by the 9,566 fans at the Jerome Schottenstein Center during the third quarter. Mentor trailed 37-34 at the half and had been outrebounded 23-16. That did not sit well with Cardinal coach Bob Krizancic.
“We’ve done a great job the entire season rebounding,” Krizancic said. “At halftime we told our kids they get one and done. And we pound and take it in.”
The Cardinals did exactly that. Mentor (25-5) outscored the Rams (21-8) 29-9 in the third quarter. More importantly, they held an uncanny 18-3 edge on the boards.
“We talked about making a run,” Krizancic said. “And once we made our run we weren’t giving it back. Not for one second were we thinking we were not going to win this game.
Mentor led by 17 heading into the final quarter. As irony would have it, two of the Cards’ losses this year came after giving up 17-point leads to Shaker Heights. Mentor avenged those losses with a 20-point victory over Shaker in the regional final. Rogers got no closer than eight in the fourth frame.
“So much credit for this goes to Shaker Heights,” Mentor senior Brody Nelson said.
A lot of the credit goes to Nelson as well. His eight points and 10 rebounds don’t indicate the job he did defensively. Rogers’ Devonte Pratt had 21 points at the half. With Nelson guarding him the entire second half, he had just two points.
“We were worried about (Rogers point guard Tony Kynard II) and at halftime he had two free throws,” Krizancic said. “(Pratt) had 21. Brody walked in and said, ‘He’s mine.’ “
Pratt’s 23 points led the Rams. Clemmye Owens added 12 and Fadil Robinson 10.
Caleb Potter led the Cards with 24 points, including four 3-pointers. Foreman had 19 points, Connor Krizancic, the coach’s son, had 16 and Brandon Fritts pulled down 19 boards as Mentor won the glass battle, 47-39.
For Bob Krizancic, the state title is his second one. He won the D-II crown 20 years ago with Girard. He reached the final four three years ago with his older son, Cole, but lost in the semis.
“This is going to mean so much for the community,” coach Krizancic said. “I was fortunate to do it in Girard and saw what it did for that community. Both (championships) are so special. To get here with my son three years ago and to win it with Connor there’s no explaining it, especially with (Cole) sitting in the stands behind me.”