Coach Bob Krizancic's return to the Youngstown area was a successful one and the Mentor Cardinals are now over. 500 on the season as Andrew Robinson got hot in the third quarter and sparked the Cardinals to an 86-66 victory over Austintown Fitch on Dec. 12.
The teams met Saturday in the United Way Holiday Classic at Poland High School. Krizancic, who is a Youngstown native and coached Girard to the 1993 state championship, saw his team win for the second time two days. Mentor defeated Euclid on Dec. 11, rebounding from a double-overtime loss to Brunswick in the season opener.
Robinson led the Cardinals – who are playing without starting guards Kyle McIntosh (MCL sprain) and Andrew Valeri (foot) – with 20 points and his four 3-pointers in the third quarter helped Mentor turn a one-point halftime lead into a 15-point advantage.
"The second half was really good, we made our runs like we wanted to and the young guys are starting to come together and really started to get it," Krizancic said.
"This was special to be back in the area and have family here and have the kids play well."
Mentor (2-1) led by a point at halftime before pulling away over the final 16 minutes.
All five starters for the Cardinals reached double figures in scoring, led by Robinson, who also had a big game in the opener against Brunswick.
"Balanced scoring and our depth was really the difference," Krizancic said. "We got great minutes and effort from Matt Craven, and we did a nice job rebounding the ball as well."
The pace of the first half favored the Falcons, but Mentor was able to turn the tables in the second half.
“The first half was our tempo,” Fitch coach Brian Beany said. “We were making them work for their shots. We were getting the possessions that we wanted. And like a good team does, it just takes one little 3 being made and then a string of them start falling. Before you know it, they are on a 12-0 run. Their ability to shoot the basketball, it’s just an absolutely huge weapon. We have streaky shooters and they have consistent shooters. If you are hot, it’s great.”
The Falcons slowed the pace down to a crawl and were able to get Mentor into some early foul trouble which got them to the foul line 20 times.They made 17 of those free throws while Mentor struggled to get into any consistency shooting 12 of 37 from the field.
“We knew they were a really solid basketball team, very smart, very well coached, a lot like Brunswick,” Krizancic said. “We were very leery of their shooters and trying to match up in transition. We just felt we were going to have to grind it out. If we could make that run and get into the transition game, that’s what we wanted — tempo. Every game, tempo has to be in our favor.”
The Cardinals were able to go on an 8-0 run to close out the first quarter after taking a 13-12 advantage with 46 seconds left. It was a precursor to what would be the norm throughout the second half when the Cardinals found their tempo and outscored the Falcons, 52-33.
“In that third quarter, we really got into our transition game,” Krizancic said. “We scored 28 points and that is what we have to do to be successful.
“When we had the run where we were going to regionals 10 out of 13 years, we were putting up 85 to 90 points. We’ve kind of gotten away from that in the last couple of years, but we are trying to get back into doing that.”
The Falcons were led by Scott Duffy’s game-high 21 points. Derek Gunter added 11 points and Anthony Pangio had 10 points and nine rebounds for Fitch.
Tadas Tatarunas (12 points), Allen Sims (12 points), Max Barich (11) and Jack Korsok (10) reached double figures for Mentor. Tatarunas added 10 rebounds.
UNITED WAY BASKETBALL CLASSIC
Mentor 86, Austintown Fitch 66
Mentor (2-1): Sims 12, Barich 11, Korsok 10, Robinson 20, Zalba 8, Tatarunas 12, Levar 5, Craven 8
Austintown Fitch (1-2): Duffy 21, Terry 2, Pangio 10, Muka 2, Sheffield 3, Gunter 11, DiFrancisco 7, Hall 5, Landon 1, Beanie 4
Mentor 20 14 28 24 — 86
Austintown Fitch 13 20 16 17 — 66
Free throws: Mentor 6 of 14, Austintown Fitch 21 of 27; 3-pointers: Mentor 16 (Robinson 6, Sims 2, Korsok 2, Zalba 2, Craven 2, Levar, Tatarunas), Austintown Fitch 3 (Sheffield, Gunter, DiFrancisco);