CLEVELAND — In the opening seconds of Wednesday night’s regional semifinal, Green’s Ryan Smith deflected a pass out of bounds that was intended for Mentor’s Luke Floriea.

Smith, with eyes staring intensely, had a message for the Cardinals star.

“All night.”

Smith wasn’t kidding.

The junior guard and his teammates put on a defensive clinic as Green downed Mentor 77-60 at Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center. The Bulldogs (22-4) won their ninth consecutive game and advanced to face Lakewood St. Edward in Saturday’s 2 p.m. regional final. The Eagles beat Euclid 77-71 in overtime in Wednesday’s second semifinal.

Wednesday was the Bulldogs’ first regional appearance in school history, and they were going against a Mentor program that makes regional appearances a routine exercise.

The Bulldogs sure looked comfortable. Green contained Mentor’s high-octane offense and got some separation as the second half progressed.

Then the Bulldogs (22-4) threw Mentor (23-3) on the surgical table in the fourth quarter, carving up the Cardinals’ pressure for layups or free throws.

“We knew we had to come in with the confidence to win and we knew what we had to do to win,” said Green senior Kaleb Martin when asked if his team felt like an underdog.

Martin had the scalpel in his hand and scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals faced the unenviable task of needing to rally against Green. The 5-foot-9 Martin made 11-of-12 free throws in the final 4:15 to seal it and finished with eight assists.

Garrison Keeslar scored 21 points and fellow junior Donovan O’Neil added 19 for the Bulldogs, who shot 21-of-22 from the foul line and 53.2 percent from the floor. Green dominated the boards 34-18, with 5-9 junior guard Shea Simmer digging out a team-high seven.

Then there was Smith, whose stat line of two points and three assists doesn’t even begin to explain his impact.

The 5-9 Smith harassed and chased the 5-10 Floriea all night. Floriea, coming off a 30-point game in Mentor’s district final, was held to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

“That was his most frustrating game,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said of Floriea, a first-team All-Northeast Lakes District guard. “He couldn’t get by people. They did a great, great job."

Added Green coach Mark Kinsley about Smith, “Right now, he’s the best defender I’ve ever coached. … His defense is just outstanding. It really sets the tone for us as a team.”

Green started quickly and led 7-3 early. The game was tied 12-12 after the first quarter as the tempo was clearly in Green’s favor.

Keeslar scored 13 points in the second quarter, helping Green weather a surge of four Mentor 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the period.

He capped his quarter by converting a driving 3-point play with six seconds left to put Green ahead 31-30. Sophomore Luke Chicone answered with 30-footer at the halftime buzzer to put Mentor ahead 33-31.

A 9-2 Green spurt — including a layup and 3-pointer from Martin — late in the third quarter had the Bulldogs ahead 50-43 heading to the fourth.

The two teams traded baskets until Floriea’s frustration boiled over. With Green ahead eight points and under five minutes remaining, Martin drove and drew a foul on Mason Trubisky. Floriea got a technical in the aftermath. Martin hit the two technical free throws, split the common foul free throws, then hit two more free throws after drawing a quick foul after the Bulldogs inbounded.

The five-point spurt had Green ahead 65-52. Mentor never got it deficit back to single digits.