by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- Kelsey Rice hasn't reached double digits in the scoring column too often throughout her career.
Thankfully for the Tallmadge girls basketball team, she does just about everything else.
Thanks to the all-around play of Rice, the Lady Blue Devils improved to 8-2 on the season after earning a convincing 59-40 victory over Rootstown Jan. 3 at Tallmadge High School's James O. Maddox Court.
Rice, Tallmadge's third-year starting point guard, made her presence felt wherever she was standing on the court. Although she scored just nine points, she lit up the stat sheet in a number of other categories.
Rice had six rebounds, four steals, four assists and a jaw-dropping nine blocked shots for the Lady Blue Devils.
"She creates so much havoc," Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson said. "The great thing about her is that when we needed buckets in the third quarter, she took over."
Rice scored seven points in the second half, including some layups on nifty hesitation moves.
The Lady Blue Devils took control of the game right away, thanks to its defense.
Tallmadge got several wide-open layups on steals. The Lady Blue Devils forced 27 turnovers on the night.
The Lady Rovers didn't prove to be too efficient when they held on to the ball either.
They missed 20 of their first 22 shots and had just three two-point field goals for the game. Rootstown scored most of its points on three-pointers (six) and from the foul line (16-of-20).
"We played a terrible first half," Rovers head coach Jay Airhart said. "We got some good looks. We have to make layups and we have to respond to adversity. They [the Blue Devils] have a very nice point guard. I thought we played very hard in the second half but at that point, the horse is already out of the barn."
Still, Rootstown managed to stay reasonably close for the first 16 minutes.
The Lady Rovers got a little bit of a momentum boost right as the first-half buzzer sounded.
Rootstown senior forward Tori Goodpaster got the ball to junior guard Madison Hartung in the left corner and Hartung buried a three-pointer as time expired.
Tallmadge still had a 30-13 lead.
"We didn't make as many shots as we wanted, but I thought we played hard," Johnson said. "I thought it was a good test for us. We got a little bit of the rust off."
Rice and guards Demi DeLorenzo and Hallie Allen took charge throughout the game with their defense, passing, rebounding and scoring.
Allen finished with a game-high 12 points and DeLorenzo scored 10 points. Guards Kirsten Lightel and Joanna Catalano each had nine points for Tallmadge.
"I thought Demi played really well," Johnson said. "She was aggressive."
Madison Hartung and Cayanne Breznak led the Rovers with nine points apiece.
The Lady Blue Devils lost a 49-27 decision in the junior varsity contest. Catalano, who had quite a busy night, led Tallmadge with 11 points.
The varsity team was scheduled to entertain Suburban League rival Green Jan. 5. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are set to host league foe Cloverleaf Jan. 12 at 2:30 p.m.