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It’s still pretty early in the season, but the Greater Cleveland Conference tilt between Mentor and visiting Brunswick on Jan. 3 felt like it had a lot on the line.
That’s because both teams played as though the game meant everything. Back and forth they went, run for run and shot for shot.
In a game that featured 15 lead changes, it was Mentor junior Ian Ioppolo that delivered the knockout punch in the final 90 seconds as Mentor prevailed, 72-67.
The game was knotted at 65-65 down the stretch, when the Cardinals worked the ball around, looking for an open shot.
Ian Ioppolo, without a defender nearby, took a pass about three feet past the 3-point arc and let fly, knocking it home to give Mentor a 68-65 lead with 1:16 left to play.
About 20 seconds later, Ioppolo scored off an inbounds pass to put the Cardinals up, 70-65. After Brunswick’s Maxx Davidson sank a couple free throws with 38 seconds left, Ioppolo slammed home a dunk, his second of the game, to put an exclamation point on the win.
Mentor’s ‘Big Three’ of Ian Ioppolo (27 points), Ryan Ioppolo (17) and Matthew Biddell (17) finished in double digits.
Mentor held a 32-20 rebounding edge led by the Ioppolo brothers. Ryan corralled nine and Ian eight. The Cardinals improved to 6-2 on the season, 2-1 in the GCC and snapped Brunswick’s five-game winning streak.
“It was definitely big, because we have Euclid next and Iggy on Sunday,” said Ryan Ioppolo, looking ahead to the Cardinals’ next two games. “It builds our momentum and gives us confidence. We’re learning a lot of new things and looking to build depth.”
@CardinalCage 6’4 senior Ryan Ioppolo (17 points, 9 rebounds) goes over Mentor’s 72-67 win over Brunswick
— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 4, 2023

Mentor shot 52% from the field (31 of 60), including another strong night on 2-point shots (25 of 39, 64%). Brunswick shot the ball pretty well in its own right, converting 26 of 51 from the field (51%).
Brunswick (7-3, 2-1) also had three players score in double figures led by Quinn Barnett with 24 (six 3s). Dickinson added 22, and Tommy Morgan 16.
“We did enough to stay in the game,” Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “We have to rebound the ball. We’re small — it’s no secret that we’re going to spread you out. But we’re going to have to get tougher.
“They’re bigger and stronger. But with the way we played offensively, it’s a disappointing loss. It makes for a long bus ride home, I can tell you that.”
@BrunswickBball coach Joe Mackey gives his thoughts on the Blue Devils’ 72-67 GCC road loss at Mentor
— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 4, 2023

The first half alone saw nine lead changes, as both teams knocked down big outside shots and converted on drives to the hoop. Brunswick took a 23-22 lead in the second quarter on a layup by Morgan, but Mentor answered with a 9-0 run, featuring six Ian Ioppolo points and a Ryan Calo triple, to go ahead, 31-23.
After a time out, Brunswick responded with a 7-0 run of its own, but Mentor took a 33-30 lead into halftime.
Neither team led by more than five points in a back-and-forth third frame that ended in a 53-53 tie, but Ryan Ioppolo made a statement during the stanza in jumping up to rebound his brother’s miss and slam home an emphatic dunk.
A Calo putback gave Mentor a 59-55 lead in the fourth, and Makel Harrison later scored on an inside bucket to make it 61-58 Mentor, but Brunswick tied it at 63-63 when Morgan found Dickinson cutting to the basket to set up the game’s final sequence.
“I think we’ve won our last 18 conference games here, which you have to do,” Mentor coach Bob Krizancic said in regard to the importance of the win. “Every (away game) you go to is brutal, so you’ve got to take care of business at home. You want to be in contention in February. Our league is only 10 games with six teams, so we couldn’t afford a (loss at home).
“We lost a buzzer-beater at Medina, and Brunswick (was) 2-0, so this was a must early win.”
@CardinalCage coach Bob Krizancic reviews Mentor’s 72-67 GCC win over Brunswick
— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 4, 2023

As intense as the game was, the teams combined for just 13 total turnovers and 20 total fouls, and they attempted a combined 15 free throws.
But when it’s crunch time, in a tight conference game, Krizancic is glad he has his ‘Big 3’ to rely on.
“He doesn’t have a shot he doesn’t like,” Krizancic said of Ian Ioppolo. “He’s not afraid to shoot it in crunch time, and you need somebody like that. Just wanting the ball, using his size, getting strong in the paint and getting to the free throw line.
“He’s starting to handle the basketball really well. I really like the three that scored for us — Ian, Ryan, and Matt Biddell.”
@CardinalCage coach Bob Krizancic talks about the Cardinals’ 72-67 win over Brunswick and the team’s effort to build depth (Part 2)
— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 4, 2023

Mentor will travel to Euclid on Jan. 6, and Brunswick will also play a GCC road game that night at rival Strongsville. Mentor will play St. Ignatius at the Play-By-Play Classic at John Carroll on Jan. 8.
@CardinalCage coach Bob Krizancic discusses Mentor’s 72-67 GCC win over Brunswick and the impact of the Cardinals’ ‘Big 3’ (Part 3)
— Jay Kron (@TownCenter2) January 4, 2023

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