Christ School in North Carolina had too much length, too much size and, well, too much of everything for in the championship game on Saturday night.
Still, Mentor achieved a great deal in their second trip to the national boys’ prep basketball tournament in Bristol, Tenn., trouncing a state semifinalist, a state runner-up and a two-time state champion along the way.
The Cardinals blazed a trail with a tournament record 44 three-pointers heading into the final against the Greenies, but Mentor faltered with 10-of-45 shooting from behind the arc to lose, 73-66, in the final.
For the second straight Arby’s Classic, Mentor has lost to the tournament’s eventual champion after falling to Columbia High School of Georgia in the semifinals last year.
Against a team that routinely features Division I college talent, including brothers Miles, Mason and Marshall Plumlee, Mentor head coach Bob Krizancic said the team was simply overmatched. Coach K cited Towson recruit and point guard Jerome Hairston in particular.
“They’re very long. They contested a lot of shots. We scored 102, 102, 92 (in prior games) and that was about 35 below our average,” Krizancic said. “The tempo wasn’t ours. The biggest problem was their point guard (Hairston) who just did a great job of breaking the press and controlling tempo a lot.”
The 6-foot-3 senior guard leads a team that has won five consecutive North Carolina state championships and led the Greenies with 22 points and nine assists, while Alabama recruit Shannon Hale, listed at 6-7, had 17 points along with national sophomore sensation Jaylen Allen’s 12.
Senior led Mentor (7-1) with a game-high 26 points and sophomore Connor Krizancic (15) and junior Mitch Trubisky (10) joined him in double figures.
Krizancic said Fritts was named to the All-Tournament team along with his sophomore brother Brandon and senior Danny Wallack.
Mentor actually led after the first quarter, 19-18, but Christ School gained an edge in the second quarter to lead, 33-28, at halftime. Mentor drew to within three points with 1:30 left in the game, but two tough scoring chances failed late.
Christ School outrebounded Mentor, 42-25, but the Cardinals won the turnover battle, 21-7.
“All in all, we just hope with the loss we learn from it. It was a tremendous tournament. We had 6,200 (in attendance Friday night) and about 4,000 (Saturday night), great crowds, great atmosphere and really good competition,” Krizancic said.
Still, the Cardinals have much too look back upon during the holiday week.
On Tuesday, Justin Fritts, who was the team's top scorer in each game, led the Cardinals with 25 points as , 102-29. The team made 19 three-pointers in their opening game. Wallack had 19 points, junior Jeff Foreman 15 and sophomore Connor Krizancic 10. The Rebels finished 25-4 last season and advanced to the Virginia High School League Group A, Division 1 state semifinals last season.
After a day off, , the two-time defending Class AA state champions in Georgia, 102-78, as Fritts led with 31 points followed by Wallack (27) and sophomore Caleb Potter (10).
The Cardinals reached the final with a convincing on Friday night. Last year, the Knights lost in the state finals to Christ School in the 3-A division of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association. Recently, the school has produced brothers Stephen and Seth Curry.
Fritts once again led the Cardinals’ charge with 26 points followed by Wallack (12), Foreman (11) and Trubisky (10). Mentor canned its 44th three-pointer of the tournament late in the game to break its own tournament record of 43 .
While it’s rare for teams to be invited back, Krizancic hopes the tournament’s committee gives them another shot to win the event.
“If we got invited back, we’d definitely like it. Kids get together. The camaraderie is great. It’s the best tournament I’ve ever been associated with,” Krizancic said.