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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- When it's a massive struggle just to put the ball in the basket, an eight-point lead with less than two minutes left seems just about insurmountable.
Sadly for Tallmadge head girls basketball coach Bill Johnson, that was not the case.
The Lady Blue Devils dropped to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the Suburban League after losing a 42-40 decision in overtime to Green Jan. 9 at Tallmadge High School's James O. Maddox Court.
Tallmadge, thanks mainly to its work on the glass, scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to take a 37-29 advantage with 1 minute, 47 seconds left.
In a heartbeat, it all came crashing down for the Lady Blue Devils.
Green forced overtime by scoring the final eight points of the period and sealed the deal when senior guard Erika Rector found forward Lexi Teodosio for an open layup with 7.5 ticks left in the overtime period.
Tallmadge junior point guard Kelsey Rice's desperation shot at the buzzer found iron.
"This is a big win for our program," Lady Bulldogs head coach Tracy Miller said. "I have tremendous respect for Tallmadge's program. They're a very good team. It's a nice rivalry."
So how did this happen?
Not long after the Lady Blue Devils took a 37-29 lead, 5-foot-11 freshman forward Madison Jackson trimmed Green's deficit to five (37-32) when she converted a three-point play.
It only got worse for Tallmadge.
The Lady Bulldogs immediately got a steal and made it 37-34 when sophomore forward Julia Guyton transformed the turnover into two points with a layup.
A little more than 30 seconds later, the Lady Blue Devils missed two free throws.
Green promptly took advantage of its free pass.
The Lady Bulldogs tied the game with 42 seconds left when Rector knocked down a three-pointer.
"To be in a position to win and then throw it away in 30 seconds is frustrating, especially after we worked so hard to get to that point," Johnson said. "We have to take care of the ball. I thought we got good shots. We just didn't finish plays. When you give up only 42 points, including overtime, you expect to win."
Oddly enough, there was some drama at the conclusion of the fourth quarter.
Jackson got her shot blocked as time expired, but Miller was called for a technical foul for arguing with the officials.
After a long conference, Tallmadge was awarded two technical foul shots to start the overtime period.
"I was upset for our team," Miller said. "It was the heat of the moment. The end of the game shouldn't come down to a situation like that."
The Lady Blue Devils, who converted 16-of-26 foul shots on the evening, made one of their two technical free throws to take a 38-37 lead.
Tallmadge's advantage didn't last.
Rector immediately responded with another three. Rice tied the game at 40 with a difficult running one-handed shot with 53.7 seconds left, but Teodosio and her teammates had the final say.
"We missed free throws and layups," Johnson said. "I know they're not trying to miss, but we missed a lot of easy shots."
Green (5-7, 3-3) didn't exactly light it up either.
While both teams' defenses were stellar, the Lady Bulldogs really gave the Lady Blue Devils' fits with their full-court pressure. Green made life difficult for Tallmadge's ball-handlers, who committed their fair share of turnovers.
The Lady Blue Devils had some foul issues too.
Starting forwards Leah Makuch and Mary Ryan spent a number of minutes on the bench after they both picked up their second fouls in the second quarter and their fourth fouls in the third period.
"It was very frustrating," Johnson said. "I thought Joanna [Catalano] and Kirsten [Lightel] did a good job in their place, though. When you constantly have to substitute on offense and defense, there's not a lot of rhythm."
Rector led all scorers with 13 points and sophomore guard McKenzie Black and Teodosio finished with nine and eight points, respectively, for the Lady Bulldogs.
Rice finished with 12 points for Tallmadge and guard Hallie Allen had seven points. A total of seven players scored at least two points for the Lady Blue Devils.
Tallmadge was scheduled to host Suburban League rival Cloverleaf Jan. 12. Results were not available at press time. The Lady Blue Devils are set to visit Cuyahoga Falls Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. before heading to Richfield to play Suburban League foe Revere Jan. 19 at 2:30 p.m.