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Mentor boys basketball: Cardinals run past tough Green, 83-70, advance to district final

Mar. 6—Five years ago, a Mentor team that was flying high at 23-2 had its season ended in a Division I regional semifinal at Cleveland State by Green, 77-60.

In a Division I district semifinal at Euclid on March 6, the Cardinals left nothing to chance in a rematch five years in the making, leading Green from start to finish in an 83-70 victory.

Mentor advances to a district final at Euclid at 2 p.m., March 9, against the winner of Massillon Jackson and Dover.

PHOTOS: Mentor vs. Green boys basketball, March 6, 2024

First-team all-district senior standouts Ian Ioppolo and Matthew Biddell scored 27 and 23 points, respectively, for the Cardinals.

Mentor junior guard Ryan Calo, in his second game back from an injury that has caused him to miss most of the season, had a breakout game offensively with 25 points.

The Mentor press only produced 11 turnovers against the well-coached, physically strong Bulldogs, but the Cardinals had their transition game in gear, and were able to play most of the game at their preferred up-and-down, faster pace.

"They're a physical team, well coached, fundamental," Biddell said of Green, the co-champions of the Federal League. "We knew we had to play solid defense, and board to win."

@CardinalCage senior first team all-district Matthew Biddell (23 points) discusses Mentor's 83-70 Div. 1 district semifinal win over Green pic.twitter.com/OPqZKgz17M

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) March 7, 2024

Biddell got Mentor going early, scoring the Cardinals' first nine points in a 9-4 run to start the game. Green battled back to tie the game at 16-16 at the end of the first quarter, but Biddell's 3 to start the second frame put the Cardinals in front for good.

The Bulldogs kept it close in the second quarter, beating the Cardinals on drives a few times and capitalizing on offensive rebounds, but Calo heated up in a big way before halftime.

Mentor led, 29-24, when Calo knocked down a 3, hit a layup off a steal, and sank another, off-balance 3 for a personal 8-0 run that extended the Cardinals' lead to 37-24. For good measure, Calo buried a deep 3 from the wing just before the halftime buzzer that gave Mentor a 42-20 lead going in to the break.

Ioppolo, who had 10 points at halftime, rained down five 3s in seven attempts in the second half.

For a game in which Mentor led by double digits for much of the time, it never felt over until the final buzzer sounded. That's because Green kept battling, despite being down by 22 to start the second half.

"We knew when we got up by 17 or 18 points, it wasn't over," Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said. "We still had to play every single possession."

@CardinalCage Coach Bob Krizancic reviews Mentor's 83-70 Div. 1 district semifinal win over Green pic.twitter.com/VjYem1qIYD

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) March 7, 2024

A 13-4 run brought Green within 79-70 late, but Mentor got defensive stops after that, and Calo put the game away with four free throws.

Five players finished in double figures for Green, paced by 6-foot-6 senior Jarrett Taylor, who scored 21 points. The Bulldogs held a 39-30 rebounding advantage, including 15 on the offensive end.

Green lost its two starting guards, Lucas Bitong and Antonio Martin, to injury earlier in the season.

"I'm just proud of our kids," Green coach Mark Kinsey said. "We were down 22 points and got it down to single digits with a couple minutes to go, so we still had a chance."

@Green_Bulldogs Coach Mark Kinsey breaks down Green's 83-70 district semifinal loss to Mentor pic.twitter.com/qLnlm2vBQI

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) March 7, 2024

Mentor finished 13 of 28 from 3-point range, and Green went 3 for 18 from outside the arc. Both teams shot 53 percent on two-point shots.

"I thought we executed our game plan," Ioppolo said. "We knew that they're not a very good shooting team, so we were sagging off shooters and trying to clog the gaps. I thought we did a good job with that and with our tempo."

@CardinalCage First team all-district senior Ian Ioppolo (game-high 27 points) goes over Mentor's 83-70 Div. 1 district semifinal win over Green pic.twitter.com/gogGUh3QUe

— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) March 7, 2024

Biddell led Mentor with eight rebounds and added 3 assists. Junior Kobe Frasure-Azzano incurred an ankle injury early in the game, but is expected to be back for the district final.

Mentor will be back at Euclid on March 9, hoping to earn its 13th all-time regional tournament appearance.

"We'll be able to come and watch Dover and Jackson (on March 7), and we'll see what they do," Krizancic said. "Then we'll have one more day of prep for all the marbles to go to Kent State on Saturday."

THE SCORE

Mentor 83, Green 70