(6) Madison vs. (1) Mentor
at Perry (7)
As part of the Northeast Ohio Conference, Mentor plays some of the top teams in the state. The Cardinals (16-8) have beaten up on teams from Madison’s, the Premier Athletic Conference.
That is with two exceptions — the Blue Streaks (16-7) and Chardon.
“There are two PAC teams we struggle with,” Mentor coach Steve Thompson said. “One is Madison. The other is Chardon.
“(Madison coach) Mike (Smith) always plays Mentor tough. His kids always play Mentor tough.”
The Cardinals philosophy is, and always has been, simple. And it won’t be any different tonight.
“We shoot 3s and get putbacks,” Thompson said. “We have four kids who shoot 3s. Our guards are 5-10, 5-9 and 5-9. We’re pretty athletic. We go eight deep. We want to run, just like the boys.
“The last time we played, we pressed the whole game. We want to get up and down the floor.”
The Blue Streaks understand what makes the Cardinals dangerous.
“It’s their length (that makes their defense work),” Smith said. “It’s nit just that they have a couple of 6-1 kids. All of them are long. With the pressure and their arms extended, they cover a lot of ground. They’re a pressing team. With our guards getting trapped by they’re bigger guards, the biggest key for them is all the ground they cover.”
There is a way for Madison to beat that press.
“We have to play confident,” Smith said. “If we let their length get in our heads, we’ll make soft passes. We have to aggressive and attack their length, use our speed and quickness.”
That aggression has to come right from the tip.
“We have to get a hold of them early and hang in there as long as we can and make them beat us later in the game,” Smith said. “We have to limit their possessions, take care of the basketball and really play ball control.
“As soon as we make a mistake, they’ll go on a 10-0 run.”
The Blue Streaks can also use the Cardinals’ own aggression against them.
“We can back dribble to relieve the pressure, ball fake and make them shift or get off their feet and use a lot of ball movement,” Smith said. “We can get the ball to the cutters to relieve pressure.”
Madison has a number of options who can hurt Mentor once they get into an offense.
Abbie Trivisonno, Taylor Bland, Dana Appelfeller, Melanie Primer and Danielle Johnson have all had big nights for the Blue Streaks.
“We’re balanced,” Smith said. “We have different people lead the scoring for us all the time. We don’t have one person you can key on to take us out of a game.”
The Cardinals are much the same way with starters Kaitlin Zdanowicz, Lauren Stefancin, Courtney Schutz, Kayla Gabor and Christine Dawson.
“Stefancin, I’d say is their best shooter,” Smith said. “They’re the biggest school in the state. They have a lot of girls to pick from. They have a lot of depth. When we’re taking out our starters, they’re putting in another 6-1 player. They’re depth and length cause a lot of teams problems.”
Julie Gavorski should be a key for the Madison defense with Tayler Gustin and Julie Bruening and all finding ways to make contributions.