by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
The Tallmadge girls basketball team hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard so far this season.
However, the Lady Blue Devils still have a zero in the "L" column.
How is this possible?
Defense, defense and more defense.
Tallmadge improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Suburban League, thanks to a pair of low-scoring affairs last week.
First, the Lady Blue Devils traveled to Copley Dec. 8 and came home with a 37-32 win.
Then, a trip to Medina Highland Dec. 12 yielded a 56-46 win.
Johnson said his players were not pleased with the way they played in the Copley game, noting Tallmadge missed 14 layups against the Indians.
"It was just like the Streetsboro game," Lady Blue Devils head coach Bill Johnson said. "We got a lot of good looks, but we just couldn't make shots. To be able to still win that game and not play well is a testament to their competitiveness."
While the offense struggled, Tallmadge's defense tied the Indians in knots most of the game. The Lady Blue Devils forced Copley into 26 turnovers on the night, compared to 14 for Tallmadge.
The Lady Blue Devils also won the rebounding battle 24-19.
For the third straight game, Kirsten Lightel led Tallmadge in scoring with 13 points, including two three-pointers. Forward Leah Makuch finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
No Copley players reached double digits.
Johnson noted Lightel suffered a cut to her finger, which required stitches during a non-basketball incident early in the week.
The injury kept the Lady Blue Devils' leading scorer out of the game with the Hornets.
So, of course, what happened? Tallmadge put up a season-high in points scored.
"I think it's probably the best game that we've played so far," Johnson said. "Nobody hung their heads when they heard Lightel was going to be out. They just went out there and played. Every single girl that played did exactly what they needed to do."
Perhaps the best sign for the Lady Blue Devils against the Hornets was despite playing with only seven varsity players, Tallmadge pulled away late, outscoring Highland 18-11 in the final quarter.
The Lady Blue Devils had three players in double figures for the first time this season as forward Mary Ryan had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Makuch had 14 points and Hallie Allen had 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers.
Point guard Kelsey Rice added eight points and 10 assists.
Highland beat Tallmadge on the boards 35-28, but once again, the Lady Blue Devils forced a ton of turnovers. Highland finished with 20.
"They're big and their post players are smooth," Johnson said. "Defensively, it was a great collective effort."
Tallmadge also did a lot of damage at the free-throw line as it finished 17-of-32 from the line compared to 8-of-19 for the Hornets.
"Our game plan was that we needed to control the tempo," Johnson said. "We needed to limit their possessions and take our shots on open looks. Our posts were very aggressive."
The Lady Blue Devils were set to host Nordonia Dec. 15, but results were not available at press time.
Up next for Tallmadge is the big one: A trip to Wadsworth Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Johnson said he hoped to have Lightel back in the fold in time for the Wadsworth game.
The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to Jackson-Milton for a non-league game Dec. 22 at 2:30 p.m.