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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
The Tallmadge boys basketball team recently lost its ninth straight game.
But at least the Blue Devils are finally healthy.
Tallmadge dropped to 1-10 overall and 1-6 in the Suburban League after losing a 58-52 decision to Cloverleaf.
The game took placeJan. 11 in Lodi.
The Colts had the advantage for much of the game even though the Blue Devils refused to go away quietly.
And for the first time this season, Tallmadge had all its pieces back.
Point guard Nate Bickar, who had missed seven games with a knee injury, and guard/forward Anthony Gotto, who had yet to suit up because of a leg injury, returned to the floor.
They both contributed in major ways too.
Gotto led the Blue Devils with 17 points and Bickar finished with 12 points.
"Obviously, they gave us an offensive boost," Tallmadge head coach Aaron Hinkle said. "Gotto played 20 minutes and Bickar played 24. Neither one of them was in full go in terms of conditioning."
Both players have valuable assets that Tallmadge sorely missed.
"Nate played point all summer," Hinkle said. "It's never good when you lose your point guard who takes care of the ball and runs things for your team. We missed Anthony's competitive spirit."
The game may have been lost at the free throw line.
Although the Blue Devils were down just two (23-21) at halftime, they made just 7-of-18 shots from the foul line. All told, Tallmadge converted just 15-of-30 free throws for the game.
"That really hurt us," Hinkle said. "We also had issues defending the ball. Their dribble drive hurt us quite a bit."
It looked like the Colts were going to put it away early.
Cloverleaf started the game with a 10-2 run. The Blue Devils responded with an 8-0 run of their own to cut their deficit to 12-10 after one quarter of play.
The Colts had the edge the rest of the way, but Tallmadge made things interesting when Gotto knocked down his third three-pointer of the game to cut Cloverleaf's advantage to 53-50 with 47 seconds left.
But the Blue Devils never got closer.
"They [the Colts] hit free throws down the stretch and we couldn't find the hole in the last minute," Hinkle said.
Tallmadge was scheduled to host Suburban League foe Revere Jan. 18. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to visit Kent Roosevelt Jan. 22 and Copley Jan. 25. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
"We have more depth in our rotation," Hinkle said. "Having all our guys back helps solidify the rotation. When they were out, it hurt the JV [junior varsity] and freshman teams. Kids were playing out of position.
"We're looking forward to having a nine-man rotation at each level and allow the guys to get in some type of rhythm."