by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- Bill Johnson knows his Tallmadge girls basketball team is going to be facing a height disadvantage most nights this season.
Such was the case Dec. 5 when Revere paid a visit to Tallmadge High School's James O. Maddox Court.
Luckily, lack of height can be overcome by energy and good defense, which the Lady Blue Devils displayed -- until the fourth quarter.
Tallmadge won its Suburban League opener against Revere, but the Lady Minutemen gave the Lady Blue Devils a big scare late.
After leading 41-18 after three quarters, Tallmadge had to weather a furious comeback and hung on for a 52-50 win.
Tallmadge also scored a 36-30 win at Ravenna Dec. 1.
The Lady Blue Devils improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Suburban League.
Johnson said there was a two-word reason for why Tallmadge survived against Revere.
"Kirsten Lightel," he said.
The junior guard a had a huge night, pumping in 24 points.
She finished with acareer-high six three-pointers and a 6-of-6 effort from the line.
"It was the fact we did some things against their half-court trap that got her some open looks," Johnson said. "It was the full-court press that we had problems with."
Indeed, the Lady Minutement were in the full-court press for virtually the entire fourth quarter, leading to numerous turnovers. Revere outscored the Lady Blue Devils 22-11 in the final eight minutes.
"I think we just didn't execute on defense in the fourth quarter," Johnson said.
Johnson also lamented his team's poor free-throw shooting down the stretch. After going 8-of-8 in the first three quarters from the line, Tallmadge was just 3-of-10 in the fourth.
"Like I told the girls, we didn't play defense; we didn't hit free throws; we turned the ball over, but we still won," Johnson said. "That's a good thing that we're learning how to win."
Revere did have an edge on the boards and in the post, thanks to forwards Caitlin Vari and Gabby Vitez, both of whom are taller than six feet.
Vari scored 12 of her team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter. Vitez and Vari combined for 20 rebounds.
However, Vari and Vitez grabbed numerous rebounds when Tallmadge players had position.
Revere took a 6-0 lead to start the a game before a pair of Lightel three-pointers helped trim the lead to 13-10 after one quarter.
However, the second quarter saw the Lady Blue Devils take command with a 16-4 quarter. Two more bombs from Lightel helped spearhead the run, giving Tallmadge a 26-17 halftime lead.
Lady Blue Devils' forward Mary Ryan scored eight of her 12 points in the third quarter as she benefited from some nice passes that led to layups.
Up by 13 after three, Tallmadge seemed in control, only to see Revere rally.
A long jump from Lady Minutement guard Abby Klein with less than a minute left cut the lead to 52-50. On the ensuing possession, Kelsey Rice was fouled, but missed both free throws. Revere grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 17.3 seconds left.
The Lady Minutemen had two chances to win it, but long three-pointers from Camryn Brown and Klein each fell short.
Against the Lady Ravens, Tallmadge fended off a fourth-period rally to retain the win.
Ravenna had an early 11-8 lead, but scored just two points in both the second and third quarters to fall behind 27-15 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Ravens outscored Tallmadge 15-9 in the fourth quarter but never could retake the lead..
"They limited our shots and the ones we did get, we didn't make," said Ravenna coach Sonny Tilden. "We didn't take care of the ball either. It was ugly, but it happens sometimes."
Rice and Lightel led the Lady Blue Devils with 10 points each. Courtney Cross paced Ravenna with eight points.
Tallmadge was set to play at Copley Dec. 8, but results weren't available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to play a pair of Suburban League games this week. Tallmadge is set to travel to Medina Highland Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a home contest with Nordonia Dec. 15 at 2:30 p.m.