Sometimes there’s just no way out.
Some opponents just have too much size, too much athleticism and too much of the right strategy to defeat you. Such was the mountain Mentor had to climb in Garfield Heights, the state’s No. 1 team in Division I, and especially senior guard Trey Lewis on Saturday night at CSU's Wolstein Center.
Lewis sifted through and around Mentor’s patented trap defense and hit runner after runner in the lane for 32 points to thwart Mentor’s hopes of returning to the state championships with an 85-68 victory over the Cardinals in the Division I, Region 2 final.
The Bulldogs shot 72.7 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cardinals, 36-11. The Bulldogs smothered the Cardinals’ three-point attack, holding them to 2-for-12 shooting, 12 below their season average. They will face No. 2 Columbus Northland at Value City Arena in Columbus.
Bulldogs senior center Mike McQueen had 19 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore forward Tony Farmer had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Still, the defending regional champion Cardinals valiantly drew within six points at the end of third quarter, but a quick 9-3 run to open the final frame blunted Mentor’s rally as McQueen fed Farmer for an alley-oop dunk, and Lloyd Henry put in a layup to finish the surge. Mentor didn’t threaten thereafter.
Mentor (21-5) had won 14 of its last 15 games and had scored more than 100 in three of its last five games heading into Saturday night. Garfield Heights (23-1) had its only loss of the season in its finale at Strongsville, 86-79.
While rankings can often inflate teams’ reputations, Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said the Bulldogs’ accolades are well-deserved, calling them the best team he’s faced all year with perhaps the single best player, too.
“I said the other night that Trey Lewis is the best guard,” Krizancic said. “He’s a great player. (Garfield Heights) is a load.”
Senior guard Cole Krizancic, the coach’s eldest son on the team, finished his career with 23 points to lead Mentor, while senior forward Matt Solden had 13 and sophomore guard Jeff Foreman had 12.
The coach was disappointed he couldn’t get his son back to the state level one more time before his high school career ended, but is still proud of the time he spent watching his son grow.
“It was the first time I had been a dad and a coach. I was extremely nervous last Saturday because of Brush. The seniors have done an unbelievable job. A couple of them have been here four years. We’ve been in the regional four times, going to Columbus and the last few years we won 82 games. That’s the brutal part of this. … we knew this day was going to come. It’s just hard to believe I won’t coach Cole anymore. It’s been a great ride, a great run.”
Lewis was the story of the first half, scoring 26 points twisting and bending around Mentor defenders for scores and diagnosing the Cardinals’ pressure defense.
Danny Wallack, just as he had against Berea in the regional semifinals, drained a 3-pointer to open the game’s scoring. But unlike that contest, Mentor’s usual roll toward more long-range scores wasn’t in the offing. While a Justin Fritts layup gave the Cardinals a quick 5-0 lead, the Bulldogs quickly rallied with nine straight points including a basket and a 3-pointer from Lewis.
McQueen had a basket during that run but then posted two consecutive baskets, including a turnaround in the lane, combined with another Lewis score to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 15-9, the same margin they would hold at the end of the quarter.
Lewis took over in the second quarter scoring 17 of the Bulldogs’ 24 points in the frame personally outscoring Mentor by a point as Garfield Heights held an 18-point bulge for its largest lead of the game and finished the half up, 45-32.
Garfield Heights matched its largest lead of the third quarter, 57-42, at 3:31, but Mentor went on a 14-5 run as Krizancic scored eight of those points including a big bucket at the end of the quarter after Terrell Byrd was called for a five-second violation.
Mentor 16 16 24 12 68
Garfield Heights 21 24 17 23 85
Mentor: Cole Krizancic 23, Matt Solden 13, Jeff Foreman 12, Justin Fritts 8, Danny Wallack 5, Collin Barth 5, Derek Bryner 2.
Garfield Heights: Trey Lewis 32, Mike McQueen 19, Tony Farmer 13, Mike Davis 9, Terrell Byrd 4, Adam Barbour 3, Kenny Simpson 2, Lloyd Henry 2, Doran Phillips 1.