Sopho­more sparks Car­di­nals

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Nate Barnes [email protected]­ald.com @NateBar­nes_ on Twit­ter

Luke Chicone opened his sopho­more sea­son with back-to­back 20-point games. No one is sur­prised.

The sopho­more guard led all scor­ers with 26 points in Men­tor’s 92-74 win over Strongsville on Dec. 7 three days af­ter he scored a team-high 21 points against North. Chicone’s skill and supreme bas­ket­ball IQ put him on the floor as a fresh­man.

A year of var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence and added phys­i­cal strength has re­sulted in early suc­cess this sea­son. The 5-foot-9 guard, called “Chico” by his team­mates, is play­ing with in­creased ag­gres­sion and de­ci­sive­ness — es­pe­cially af­ter Coach Bob Krizan­cic pulled him twice against North for pass­ing up open shots.

“Last year, I feel like I fa­cil­i­tated more for oth­ers,” Chicone said. “This year, it’s like cre­at­ing my own shot and do­ing the same thing I did last year.”

Junior Luke Flo­riea added 22 points and Chad Rogers scored 15 as Men­tor im­proved to 2-0. The Car­di­nals made 14 3-point­ers in their Greater Cleve­land Con­fer­ence opener, led by Chicone’s five makes.

Strongsville led, 11-2, in the first quar­ter be­fore Chicone scored 10 points to spark a 14-0 Men­tor run.

Chicone made four of his five 3-point­ers in the first quar­ter and the Car­di­nals led, 27-22, af­ter a quar­ter.

Alex Edwards hit a pair of 3-point­ers in the sec­ond quar­ter to help stretch Men­tor’s lead to dou­ble dig­its. Flo­riea’s first of three 3-point­ers sent the Car­di­nals to half­time ahead, 49-40.

Strongsville cut its deficit to six by the end of the third quar­ter and trailed by four, 67-63, af­ter Kevin Lawler’s layup. Men­tor switched its full-court pres­sure to a man-to-man look, stopped try­ing to trap the Mus­tangs’ ball­han­dlers and found de­fen­sive suc­cess. Strongsville scored 13 points in the fourth quar­ter,

“We tried to just get in their guards’ heads a lit­tle bit and make them think about it,” Flo­riea said, “think about what they were do­ing. Got some steals, got some easy layups and put them away.”

Mean­while, Chicone hit all six of his free throws then put the game away when he stole the ball and fin­ished through con­tact from the 6-foot-5 Lawler.

“I knew he was a ris­ing star for Men­tor,” Strongsville coach John Lipowski said. “I knew, with Men­tor and the pro­gram they have, there’s go­ing to be some­one to drop 20.”

Timmy Ruch led the Mus­tangs with 17 points and Drew Lipowski added 15. Strongsville fell to 0-3.

Krizan­cic was con­cerned by his team’s de­fen­sive ef­fort in a 91-80 win over North on Dec. 4, and saw some mar­ginal im­prove­ment against Strongsville. Men­tor plays at Shaker Heights on Dec. 14, then vis­its 2018 Divi­sion I state run­ner-up Solon on Dec. 21.

Sopho­more Ian Kipp is ex­pected to re­turn from an an­kle in­jury sus­tained dur­ing the foot­ball team’s post­sea­son next week. The hy­per-ath­letic wing will ac­cli­mate quickly into Krizan­cic’s ro­ta­tion.

Most en­cour­ag­ing from Men­tor’s first week, to Krizan­cic, is a be­lief among the play­ers they are ca­pa­ble of bet­ter play.

“I would say that is prob­a­bly the over­whelm­ing good thing about two games,” Krizan­cic said, “is we know that we can play a lot, lot bet­ter. Es­pe­cially de­fen­sively.”

TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Men­tor’s Luke Chicone shoots over Strongsville’s Jalen Gar­ner on Dec. 7.

TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Men­tor’s Chad Rogers drives to the bas­ket dur­ing the Car­di­nals’ win over Strongsville Dec. 7.

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