Most teams don't tout the importance of the early-season game.
But the Mentor High boys basketball team were looking at a rare 3-0 skid and starting the season 0-2 in the the NOC Valley Division if they lost to Garfield Heights Friday night.
That's why their 76-63 win was so significant, despite where it falls on the schedule.
"This game was huge. We talked about this win, it was one of the most important for the program in a long time," Mentor Coach Bob Krizancic said to Ohio Varsity.
"We aren’t used to losing two in a row -- let alone three -- in a row, so after playing the German team and Shaker Heights, we really needed this one."
Krizancic's players also understood the importance of the showdown with Garfield Heights -- including senior guard Brody Nelson who scored a team- and career-high 24 points Friday night.
"Coming into this game, we knew we needed to turn things around and pick things up," Nelson said. "This was a great team win. A lot of those points I got are just my teammates giving me great opportunities."
Senior Jeff Foreman scored 13 points -- all in the second half -- including consecutive 3's in a run that helped Mentor pull away from the Bulldogs.
"This brings back a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum," Foreman said. "If we want to win the league, we had to have this game. And just to get a win after two straight losses, on the road against a good team like Garfield is huge."
Garfield’s Richard Parker scored six 3-pointers in the first half but Mentor (9-2) had a 30-29 lead at halftime. However, the Bulldogs came out in the third quarted and scored the first six points of the third quarter.
Then the Cardinals closed the third quarter on an 18-6 run and led by seven heading to the final 8 minutes.
"We need people that want the basketball at crunch time, and Brody and Jeff did that tonight," Krizancic said. "They both will hopefully play college ball, and both really came to play and it was good to see."