The Mentor Cardinals beat Brunswick 69-63 Friday night, climbed to 11-2 and earned a tie for first place in the NOC Valley Division.
That's the good news.
The salt in that sugar is the Cardinals struggled to score in the fourth quarter -- a problem they have had before.
Thye only scored nine points in the final eight minutes, which allowed Brunswick to winnow Mentor's 13-point lead at the beginning of the final quarter to five with less than 20 seconds to play.
But, ultimately, Michael Gallagher's career-high 22 points and a defensive effort that helped force 30 Blue Devils turnovers made the difference Friday night. Caleb Potter also scored 19, including an important layup late in the game.
“I know this team is talented, but right now, we aren’t tough enough, especially in the fourth quarter,” Cardinals Coach Bob Krizancic told Ohio Varsity.
“Bottom line is we aren't closing out games. We have had four games this year where we scored 9, 6, 4 and 6 points in the fourth. We have to got to have somebody step up and want the basketball late in close games. We need to start playing up to our talent and our basketball IQ. Our turnovers and decision making were not good tonight.”
The Cardinals gave up 15 turnovers against Brunswick.
Gallagher agreed that Mentor needed to improve their fourth-quarter game.
“Part of the problem late in these close games is we start to think too much instead of relaxing and just playing basketball,” Gallagher said to Ohio Varsity. “We have to be more aggressive and make better decisions. We need to step up in the fourth quarter on offense and defense and be strong with the ball.”
Mentor tends to thrive when shooting the 3 well. They made 8 of 18 3s in the first half but finished 12 of 38 from beyond the arc for the game. They also made 5 of 9 from the free throw line while Brunswick was a perfect 10 for 10.
Kyle Wheeler led Brunswick with 22 points.
The Cardinals will play Benedictine tonight.