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KHALIL CHATMAN of Lakeside goes up with a shot in first-half action against Mentor during a Division I district semifinal Thursday night at Euclid High School. At right is Emilio Parks.

EUCLID — “If I knew then what I know now” is a lament that has been immortalized in song and poetry.

The Lakeside boys’ lament after a 75-66 defeat at the hands of Mentor eliminated them from the Euclid district tournament wasn’t quite the same, and they weren’t looking back very far with it. They were looking only to the first half of Thursday’s contest in saying, “If we could have done then what we can do now.”

In the first district semifinal match in their history, the third-seeded Dragons (18-5) did themselves and their community proud by showing they could play with the fifth-ranked Division I team in the state, as they made a run at the Cardinals in the second half. However, their early inability to break the fullcourt press cost them dearly.

“We were shook,” Lakeside coach Rob Pisano said. “I start three sophomores; let’s face it. The whole atmosphere, the crowd, everything.

“We went over that press for three straight days. It had nothing to do with (not knowing) what to do. You saw the second half; it didn’t affect us. Once they settled down, they said, ‘OK, let’s go play the game.’”

In the beginning, getting the ball inside to Emilio Parks (27 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) wasn’t even a consideration for Lakeside, because it was having trouble just getting the ball into its frontcourt. Time after time, it failed to do that, and it sometimes didn’t get much further when it did manage to do it. Altogethe,r it had 25 turnovers in the first half — 16 coming in the first quarter, including seven in its first eight possessions and 14 in its initial 17.

Top-seeded and two-time defending district champion Mentor (20-3) used the turnovers, along with its 3-point shooting proficiency, to take command early. It ran out to a 24-8 advantage after one quarter, at which point Brendan Hester (23 points, 3 blocked shots) had done all of Lakeside’s scoring. The Dragons pretty much played the Cardinals even over the next several minutes before Mentor ran off nine points for its biggest lead at 48-24.

Emonte Parks closed the first-half scoring with a triple to make it 48-27.

In that first half, senior Jaron Crowe (8 assists) put in 13 of his 22 points and Cole Krizancic (5 steals) tallied 11 of his 23 points for Mentor. Each had three treys at that point, and Krizancic later added another.

The second half, however, was a totally different story, as Emilio Parks, who had been held scoreless in the first quarter, poured in 21 of his points.

A 10-0 Dragon surge cut it to 54-42 inside the three-minute mark of the third quarter. From there, the margin varied between 11 and 15 points until Lakeside scored six unanswered points to get it within single digits at 63-54 as the game’s four-minute mark approached.

The Dragons were able to reach as close as seven at 66-59 at the 2:41 mark, but Mentor was able to stay in front with the help of a layup and seven-of-10 free throws.

The Cardinals’ final two points came on a pair of foul shots by Crowe, giving the senior exactly 1,000 points in his career.

“The tempo — I was definitely happy with that early,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic, whose team will now face Brush in the district final for the second straight year, said. “The press worked. But we didn’t shoot well the whole game. Free throws were one of the poorest performances in a long time.

“I told (my players), ‘You’re lucky you’re still alive.’ Lakeside’s very good.”

The Cardinals went 17 of 29 from the line as compared to 11 of 12 for Lakeside. Mentor shot 39.7 percent (25 of 63) from the floor, while the Dragons were 26 of 52 for 50 percent.

“They made (7) threes in the first half, I told our guys, but that wasn’t the thing that killed us,” Pisano, who credited Hester and Rashaad Bell with their defense on Crowe and Cole Krizancic in the second half, said. “It was throwing the ball all over the court. And they settled down and they got back to the press-breaker that we had worked on for three straight days.”

Cody Blizzard had 10 rebounds for the Dragons despite having to leave the game for a time in the first half after taking a bad spill out of bounds. Lakeside led, 42-28, on the glass, but gave the ball up 21 more times (34-13) than the Cardinals.

Khalil Chatman contributed five assists and Bell eight boards and four assists for the Dragons, who used six players for the majority of the contest, with a seventh playing only briefly.

Cameron Aloisio had nine points and five thefts for Mentor, and Justin Fritts put in all nine of his points in the first half while coming up with four steals overall. Eleven of the Cardinals’ 18 steals came in the first quarter.

“It’s the fifth-ranked team in the state,” Pisano said. “If you get it down to seven, where they’re stalling the ball and trying to beat little Lakeside, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.”

One indicator that the Dragons had performed well was the fact Coach Krizancic was not happy with his team’s play.

“Especially after the first quarter, (I’m) not thrilled at all,” he said. “Maybe after the first two games (in this tournament, which we won by a combined 108 points), we thought we were better than we were. They played harder than us, especially in the second half. We just played soft and we played weak.

“We missed a lot of free throws, we missed a lot of power moves, we let them back in the game.”



Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.

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