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    North takes down Mentor for first time in 18 years


    A lot was riding on North’s Division I sectional semifinal game against Mentor at Perry on Tuesday.

    With a win, the Rangers would advance to a third straight district title and they’d pick up their first victory over the Cardinals since Feb. 28, 2002.

    Avril Drew, who wasn’t born the last time North beat Mentor, scored a game-high 22 points and Destiny Leo added 21 and Abby Carter finished with nine in leading the Rangers to a 66-48 victory.

    “You know, in Lake County, it’s been Mentor, then North, then Mentor, then North, for maybe the past 20-plus years,” North coach Paul Force said. “To come in and have a chance to go head-to-head with them in a game of this magnitude was pretty special. The girls were excited about it.”

    Leo is the only current Ranger to have game experience against Mentor.

    The Cardinals beat the Rangers, 55-46, in a 2017 district semifinal when Leo was a freshman.

    “It was definitely pretty cool to go out there and get that win against them,” Leo said. “I think it got all of us jacked up to get out there and play hard and together. Everyone did their part tonight.”

    North’s last win over Mentor may have come over 6,570 days ago, but the Rangers hit the court running on Tuesday.

    The Rangers led early, 14-3, and took a 19-8 lead into the second quarter. When the Cardinals went on a run, the Rangers responded with one of their own.

    “We don’t want to be up and down emotionally,” Force said. “There are 32 teams left in the state. We know teams are going to make runs and shots. We need to maintain focus and composure and stay in the moment. That’s easy to say, it’s harder to do. A lot of credit goes to the girls tonight for staying together and trusting one another.”

    Drew led the team in scoring for the second time this season.

    “Avril is our Swiss Army knife,” Force said. “There is nothing that she doesn’t do well. I think her ceiling is still out there. She can get better and tighten up a lot of things, but she can do everything on the floor well. She’s a tough matchup for teams, especially when you have Abby and Destiny out there demanding attention. She’s a student of the game and I know she’s hungry to continue to learn and grow.”

    Many of Drew’s points were earned in the paint after battling for a loose ball or rebound.

    “It was just a big game and the adrenaline definitely helped push me to play as hard as I could,” Drew said. “I was just letting the game come to me and not trying to do anything specific besides help our team win. I think my parents both taught me that the way to play basketball is to also do the dirty work. I take pride in that part of the game because I know how many open looks and good plays we get out of hustle plays.”

    Drew also was motivated by North’s lack of success against Mentor.

    Under Force, the Rangers were 0-7 against the Cardinals.

    “When Coach Force was talking to us before the game, he told us that ever since he’s been at North, he’s never won against Mentor,” Drew said. “That just pushed us to play the game as hard as possible, for our coach as well. I think he definitely deserved this win against Mentor as much as we did. I’m glad all his hard work film watching, making scouting reports and game plans had a positive outcome.”

    North advanced to play in Friday’s district championship game. The Rangers won the district last season and finished as the runner-up in 2018.

    To add a second straight title, North has to beat Brush for a third time this season. The Arcs defeated Euclid, 61-56, in the other semifinal.

    “We just have to stay focused on preparing hard and being ready for the game and doing what we do,” Leo said. “We can’t overlook anyone, especially at this time of year.”

    North won at Brush on Dec. 4, 66-65, and then beat the Arcs at home on Jan. 22, 59-36.

    Force isn’t interested in previous results. He focused his players on the next game, not the previous ones.

    “We don’t have to beat them three times, we need to beat them once, and that’s Friday night,” Force said. “I think the familiarity will make for an exciting atmosphere. We are already getting to work to see what we can do. This isn’t the time of year that we should have to worry about lack of focus.”

    North 66, Mentor 48

    Mentor 8 13 15 12 – 48
    North 19 10 21 16 – 66

    Mentor (16-9); Wochele 7, Kraska 6, Guyton 0, Carciopollo 13, Kroger 0, Lagrange 0, Kolschetzky 4, Berwald 0, Lanese 10, Holmes 0, Hickman 8

    North (21-3); Hamilton 8, Juric 0, Mandato 0, Vitello 0, Carter 9, Siekaniec 0, Kononow 0, Vajusi 0, Leo 21, Sevegen 0, Drew 22, H Wilson 4, Oostdyk 2

    Field goals: Mentor 20/57 (35%), North 21/48 (43%): Free throws: Mentor 5/11 (45%), North 15/18 (83%); 3-pointers: Mentor 3 (Carciopollo 2. Hickman 1) , North 9 (Carter 1, Leo 3, Drew 3, Hamilton 2); Rebounds: Mentor 18, North 34 (Leo 9); Assists: Mentor 8, North 17 (Leo 5)

    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. 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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