Every team and coach wants to start the season off with a win.
But for Mentor, their victory over Uniontown Lake was extra sweet Nov. 25.
Not only did the Cardinals win their home opener, 79-64, but it was the 700th victory for Coach Bob Krizancic in his historic career.
After the ceremony where he saw his new banner unveiled in the gymnasium, he is happy the moment has passed and now everybody can focus on the rest of the season.
After his 700th career win, @CardinalCage head coach Bob Krizancic is happy that he reached the milestone but also happy that he and the team don’t have to have that hang over their heads as the season goes on #NHBasketball pic.twitter.com/MeyEvl1jZn
— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) November 26, 2022
“I wanted to get it out of the way. It felt like I was coaching my first game. It was a weird overall day,” Krizancic said. “I didn’t want it to linger, and I knew we needed to play a really good game. Lake is a Federal League team. They have some good players, and the tempo was key early. In the first four minutes, we switched to the zone press, and getting it out of the way is huge. We had a lot of ex players and family was here as well. They’ve been here every step of the way.”
It was a slow start for both as neither team found the bottom of the bucket in the first three minutes. Then the Blue Streaks went on a run and opened up an 8-2 lead.
Krizancic called timeout and then the Cardinals went on an 8-2 run of their own. The biggest issue for Mentor early in the contest was ball control as they had four turnovers in the first quarter.
Out of the pause, the Cardinals went on their own 8-2 run and took a two-point advantage at the first buzzer. With the opening deficit erased, he believed that was the confidence builder the players needed in their first time on the court this season.
“It was like a typical opening game,” Krizancic said. “We’re playing two sophomores, two juniors and a senior. I was worried about that. We’re young, but I think we’ll be a totally different team in 4-5 weeks. We’ll have the experience, but Matt and Ian took over as they should. We have a lot of pieces that can be really good together.”
A big factor in the game was Matthew Biddell and his ability to drive with the ball into the lanes. A season ago, he was someone who would work around the perimeter before heading into the lane.
Against the Blue Streaks, he scored 29 points with just one 3-pointer.
Now able to capitalize on that aspect of his game, Biddell is excited to contribute more in the scoring department.
Now in a role where he can drive and get to the lane more, @CardinalCage Matthew Biddell (@biddell_matthew) led the Mentor scoring charge with 29 points in the Cardinals victory over Lake #NHBasketball pic.twitter.com/HoB91k3N9p
— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) November 26, 2022
“I moved to the wing, and that gives me the opportunity to attack and drive more,” Biddell said. “That’s what I like to do. As a team, we all played well. The guys got me open and that gave me the looks I needed.”
He wasn’t the only Mentor junior in double figures as Ian Ioppolo added in 26 of his own with 16 in the second half. After they controlled the second quarter, Lake found a rhythm after the half and took a one-point lead.
But from there is was all Cardinals as they retook the lead on a Biddell runner. The Cardinals embarked on a 20-10 run to close the third.
Back in the dreaded full-court press for which it is known, Mentor was able to force 15 Lake turnovers and converted many of those free possessions into points.
“The big thing for us is defense,” Biddell said. “We have to stay away from defensive breakdowns, and I told them to lock down on defense and hustle. The points will come. As long as we play defense, everything will be fine.”
While his two juniors led the way in scoring, Krizancic also saw Kobe Frasure-Azzano finish with 10 points. They also saw Braylon Johnson come off the bench and add 11 as well.
When he checked in second quarter and hit a wide open corner three, it was the first bucket Johnson made in almost two calendar seasons.
“For a young man that was out a year and a half with two injuries, a labrum and an ACL, that was huge,” Krizancic said. “We knew he was a good shooter and had to get his body and confidence. He worked a lot in the fall and he was a very big plus for us tonight throughout the game. He adds depth for us and that’s what we need these next few weeks.”
A run of four consecutive 3s in the fourth saw Mentor’s lead shrink from 20 to 11 points, but Lake never threatened to retake the lead after the early third quarter.
The four Cardinals in double figures was what it took to counterbalance Chase Casenhise, who had 34 for the Blue Streaks. Caleb Collins added in 13 as well.
Krizancic looks for career win No. 701 when Mentor next hits the floor on the road at Medina on Dec. 2.
Leave a Reply