The Bulldogs' patient, defensive game meets the Cardinals' fast, high-scoring system Wednesday.
GREEN Mark Kinsley doesn’t want heroes Wednesday night. The Green High School boys basketball coach needs his players “to do what they do.”
Therein lies the interesting aspect of the 6:15 Division I regional semifinal with Green and Mentor at Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center. What the Bulldogs (21-4) do and what the Cardinals (23-2) do are very different.
Pace and style will be at the forefront of this matchup as Green makes its first regional appearance and Mentor makes its 13th just in head coach Bob Krizancic’s 26 years. Euclid and St. Edward follow in the second semifinal at 8.
The high-scoring Cardinals will press, play fast and shoot from anywhere on the court. The Bulldogs certainly can play in a high gear for spurts but want a more defensive, possession-by-possession game.
“We prefer a game in the high 70s or 80s,” said Krizancic, who has built Mentor into one of Northeast Ohio’s top programs and led the Cardinals to the 2013 state championship. “They probably want it in the 50s or 60s. It’s usually a battle of tempo.
“But this time of year, playing at Cleveland State, it can be difficult to shoot. You have to play very hard and find a couple of guys to score.”
Mentor is led by its backcourt of 5-foot-10 junior Luke Floriea and 5-9 sophomore Luke Chicone. Floriea scored 30 points in Mentor’s 77-73 district final win against a loaded Brush squad.
“The issue they bring is they’ll shoot at any time,” said Kinsley, in his 21st season as Green’s head coach. “And it’s not like their shots are going to be coming off sets. If they’re open 10 feet behind the line, they’ll shoot. All five starters can shoot and they’ve got really good ball-handlers.”
Mentor knocked down 10 3-pointers — four from Floriea — in the district final.
Kinsley hopes a December matchup with Solon, which plays just like Mentor, will pay dividends Wednesday. Green lost to Solon 65-50. Mentor beat Solon, last year’s Division I state runner-up, 60-58 last week in a district semifinal.
Mentor senior Chad Rogers, a 6-5 forward who is going to Penn State for baseball, scored 18 points against Brush. Senior Mason Trubisky, the 6-4 brother of Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, is another Mentor rotation player.
Floriea, a Division I football recruit as a slot receiver, is Mentor’s lone returning starter, while Trubisky is the only other player back with substantial varsity experience.
So the Cardinals reeling off 23 wins and making another sweet 16 appearance weren’t necessarily expected.
“It’s kind of a shocker to the majority of people, even within our program,” Krizancic said.
Green counters with 5-9 senior guard Kaleb Martin, who scored 35 points in a 65-45 district final win against Jackson. Martin, the Northeast Inland District Division I Player of the Year and basically a one-man press-breaker, averages 20.0 points and 3.2 assists.
He’s Green’s lone 12th-grader, but juniors Ryan Smith, Shea Simmer, Donovan O’Neil and Garrison Keeslar also own plenty of experience.
“Fundamentally they’re really strong and defensively they’re really strong,” Krizancic said. “They have good guard play and they’re tough.”
Green’s man-to-man defense was suffocating against Jackson. The Bulldogs will need a repeat performance against the explosive Cardinals. The 5-9 Smith usually takes the lead in that department.
“We’ve got to guard the ball,” Kinsley said. “We can’t get beat off dribble penetration, because that’s where it all starts with them.”
The 6-4 Keeslar averages 11.2 points and 4.3 rebounds while the 6-3 O’Neil adds 10.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Keeslar has been fantastic of late. During Green’s eight-game winning streak, the long, lanky wing player is averaging 15.0 points while shooting 58.5 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from 3-point range.
“He’s really played well all season. He just wasn’t shooting the ball well,“ Kinsley said. “It’s been huge for us to get a second consistent scorer to go along with Kaleb.”
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