Warren Harding boys cagers top Mentor 55-34

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Warren Harding boys cagers top Mentor 55-34
One could almost hear the engines revving up in the Warren Harding locker room at halftime.

The Raiders boys basketball team sputtered and broke down in the first half at Mentor Saturday night. But after an intermission overhaul, they ran like a well-oiled machine and sped away to a 55-34 victory.


MENTOR – One could almost hear the engines revving up in the Warren Harding locker room at halftime.

The Raiders boys basketball team sputtered and broke down in the first half at Mentor Saturday night. But after an intermission overhaul, they ran like a well-oiled machine and sped away to a 55-34 victory.

Trailing 20-17 after managing just 12 shots from the field and committing 14 turnovers in the first half, Harding, the No. 6 ranked Division I team in the state, put on its track shoes and outscored the short-handed Cardinals 38-14 the rest of the way. Mentor played without deadeye guard Joe Meyer, who leads the team at 22 points a game, but was at home battling a viral infection.

The Raiders (19-1) held the Cardinals (16-4) to 7-of-25 shooting in the first half, but failed to take advantage due to their own sloppy offensive performance. But when No. 13-ranked Mentor continued to misfire from three-point range in the second half, they were ready. They kicked the ball out and used their athleticism and distinct height advantage to run past and pass over the Cardinals.

“The difference was concentration,” explained Harding coach Steve Arnold. “That’s all those turnovers were. (Mentor coach Bob) Krizancic does a great job of getting his kids to believe in his system and make you play badly at times.”

They didn’t play badly at any point of the second half. Their fast-break resulted in two slam-dunks by center Chris Henderson, 11 points from guard Sheldon Brogdon and four offensive rebounds by Elijah Jordan, all in the second half.

The defense, which held the Cardinals to 12 of 50 (24 percent) shooting, was solid throughout. But Harding didn’t find its rhythm offensively until the second half. In the end, the Raiders had hit 21 of 37 (57 percent) from the field. All it took was taking their defensive pressure and turning it into baskets.

“I didn’t want to have Chris, (forward Damian Eargle) and Elijah chasing their 6-foot guys all over the floor,” Arnold said. “We made some moves to use our size advantage and get some easy baskets. Our objective was to get the ball into the paint.”

The Raiders didn’t keep the ball long enough to work it inside in the first half. Mentor guard Jaron Crowe, who matched Brogdon for game honors with 16 points, nailed two 3-pointers in the first half and teammate Scott Branchick drained another to give the Cardinals a 20-16 lead.

Mentor used its patience and ball movement to remain ahead most of the first half. But Harding was not only able to turn its defensive rebounding into fast-break points after intermission, but also hurt the Cardinals on deflections and turnovers.

“We just weren’t hitting our shots and I thought they ran their break pretty effectively,” said Krizancic, who added that his team will likely play without Meyer in the first round of the Euclid sectional on Tuesday against struggling Eastlake North. “We knew we had to hit more of our shots tonight.”

The Raiders wasted no time assuming control when the second half began. A driving fast-break layup by Brogdon gave his team a 28-24 lead then the first Henderson dunk stretched it to 34-26.

Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals when forwards Mike Johanek and Scott Branchick both picked up their fourth fouls. Branchick, in fact, fouled out with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the Raiders were in the process of putting it away with a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter. The exclamation point was placed by Eargle (game-high eight rebounds), who scored off yet another fast break to make it 51-31.

“We just played a lot harder in the second half,” Brogdon said. “One of our strategies in the second half was playing less one-on-one and more as a team. We did that in the second half.”

The Raiders were indeed clicking on all cylinders.

 

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