It must be hard for Mentor’s opponents to realize that if you’re behind the Cardinals at halftime, things will only get worse for you in the second half.
At least that’s the pattern so far this season.
Visiting Benedictine attempted to counter that trend on Jan 23, cutting a double-digit deficit to 38-30 at halftime, then battling to 42-36 at the start of the third quarter.
But true to form, one night after Mentor scored 30 points in the third quarter in a 90-72 win over Brunswick, the Cardinals regained control in the third quarter and pushed the game out of reach.
Luke Chicone and Jonah Waag combined for 27 points in a 42-point stanza to help stretch the Mentor’s lead from six points to 29, and the Cardinals continued to win, 100-80.
Waag finished with 23 points, a team-high, and Chicone finished with 22 points and eight interceptions. Chicone had 17 points and four interceptions in the Cardinals’ dominant third quarter.
“Our main goal is two and a half innings, and it turns out our two innings were in the third quarter,” said Chicone. “It came at a crucial time in the third quarter because the shots weren’t falling. Things finally changed in the third quarter, and that was huge for us.
Waag, who had four assists and four rebounds to go along with his team record, led all scorers with 13 points at halftime. When Mentor called the time out after the Bengals had less than six hours, Waag said the Cardinals adjusted their attitude.
“The coach said we were better than that,” Waag said. “Then we all said, we’ve got to get out there, and we’ve got to play like we’re the best team in the state. Because we believe we are the best team in the state. “
Mentor (6-0) dominated the first quarter on defense, forcing 10 turnovers and allowing just nine shot attempts to take a 21-6 lead.
Bénédictine (1-7) did not fold and took better care of basketball in the second quarter. Junior Jalen Brown, who scored a high 36 points, combined with senior Ju’Waun Howard to score 17 points as the Bengals beat Mentor in the frame, 24-17
After the London Maiden scored on a Howard assist to take Benedictine to 42-36 in the third and the Cardinals called up the time-out, the floodgates opened.
Steven Key and Cael Gray’s three points were followed by a Waag bucket on a steal, a free throw from Chicone, a steal by Chicone and a pass to Andrew Smith for two, then a triple Chicone.
Just like that, it was 56-36. More turnovers and quick baskets followed, and Mentor held an 80-51 lead when the third quarter bell rang. Chicone and Waag took their places on the bench for the fourth quarter.
“We just let them get too many easy baskets, we weren’t attacking and we let them come in at a slower pace than we wanted,” said mentor coach Bob Krizancic. “I hate to wait until the third quarter, but once we get into the press, and we can score and exhaust teams, that’s our game.”
Howard finished with 13 points and Maiden added 12 for Benedictine. Brown scored 28 of his 36 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to keep the game within reach for the Bengals.
“We are playing hard,” Benedictine coach Rob Stircula said. “But we’re just not very smart and we make too many mistakes. With this group, our margin of error is not as big as with other groups that we have had.
“We had a good game plan and we slowed them down a bit in the first half, but you can’t give up 42 points in the third quarter.
Key added 19 points for Mentor and made two free throws with 6 seconds left to take Mentor to 100 points. Junior Sean Collins collected 10 points.
Since Mentor has played six games so far, well behind some of the other Division I teams in Northeast Ohio, the focus is more on winning than usual in every regular season game. given that the playoff seeds vote takes place on February 4.
“For the first time this year in the tournament, every game is played at the top seed’s home, throughout the district (final),” Krizancic said. “So you really want to be the top seed. Our emphasis is that almost every game we are fighting for that tournament seed. We love to play at Mentor. We’re doing pretty well here. “