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by Eric Clutter | Correspondent
Kent -- The Tallmadge and Kent Roosevelt boys basketball teams didn't score a single point in the first four minutes of play Jan. 22 in Kent.
Ultimately, the difference in the Blue Devils' convincing 63-41 victory over the Rough Riders was the fact Tallmadge's shooting prowess eventually warmed up to the temperature inside the confines of Kent Roosevelt High School, while the Rough Riders' accuracy remained as frigid as the single-digit reading outside.
The Blue Devils hit a season-high nine three-point field goals, had four players reach double figures in scoring and played sound defense over 32 minutes to register their third win of the season against 10 losses.
It was Tallmadge's second consecutive victory after enduring a nine-game losing streak. The Blue Devils also posted a 61-47 victory over Suburban League rival Revere Jan. 18 at James O. Maddox Court. With the win, Tallmadge improved to 2-6 in the league.
"We have been practicing better offensively," Blue Devils head coach Aaron Hinkle said. "We haven't been showing it in games and obviously, we've been working all year. [But] we haven't shown it much and this was the first game that we were able to come out and everybody played to their strengths, did what they are capable of. I thought it was a good team victory."
Tallmadge sophomore Andrew Francesconi, who led everyone with 17 points, finally broke the ice at the 3:40 mark of the first frame with a putback. Kent's Corey Mitchell answered seconds later, but the Blue Devils reeled off 11 more points over the next three minutes to lead 13-6 through eight minutes.
Four different Blue Devils hit threes in the second quarter and thanks to an 11-0 run, Tallmadge established a 31-11 lead with less than two minutes left in the half.
The Rough Riders, who concluded a three-game home stand with a 1-2 mark to fall to 4-9 overall, posted the final five points of the half, but were not able to sustain that bit of offensive production into the second half.
With their defense holding Kent's top three scorers -- Mitchell, Joseph Watts and Myles Wright -- to a combined 13 points, Tallmadge continued to dominate the final 16 minutes, extending the margin to 33 early in the fourth quarter.
"I am very proud of the way our guys responded in terms of moving the basketball and sharing the basketball," Hinkle said. "And the guys are not trying to do too much. They're playing to their strengths."
Nate Bickar and Anthony Gotto, who have been out of the lineup for a good portion of the season with injuries, scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Colten Stricker also added 10 points off the bench.
"We have faced a lot of adversity this year," Hinkle said. "We've had guys with illnesses, guys with injuries. For most of the year, we have been starting four sophomores and one junior.
"We believe that these guys are the future, are going to be successful basketball players and a good basketball team.
"But they've been asked to the call of duty a little earlier than I expected. I think that is tough when you are experiencing everything for the first time. It is difficult when you are a sophomore and playing quality opponents.
"We have played some very good teams. But our kids have kept their heads up."
Mitchell's seven points paced Kent, which converted only 13 field goals for the game.
"We preach defense first and I thought we came in with a good focus defensively," said Hinkle. "When we settled in offensively, we kept playing defensively and that good defense just snowballed into good offense."
As problematic as his team's offense was, Rough Riders coach Ben Dunlap was more disturbed by the play of the defense.
"We were prepared," he said. "We knew what they were going to do. They shot the ball better than we had seen them. A couple times we went out and I thought we contested and they still knocked them down. And there were a lot of times where we didn't even contest shots.
"We were lost on defense. I thought this was our poorest defensive performance in a month. It looked like we forgot what we worked on for the last month when we started making our little turnaround in being more competitive."
For Hinkle, it's all about patience. He knew his team would take its lumps early in the season. He's more focused on the future.
"We have talked about the process, the bigger picture," Hinkle said. "I think the guys have hung in there. We've had some very good practices this year and you are always better with your better players playing minutes for you. That helps a lot.
"But we talked about not just getting through it, but getting something from it. I think that showed."
The Blue Devils, who lost a 51-48 decision in the junior varsity contest.
Against Revere, Gotto led Tallmadge with 16 points and Bryon Cook finished with 10 points. Francesconi and Joseph Vassalotti each had eight points for the Blue Devils.
Tallmadge was scheduled to visit league rival Copley Jan. 25. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to entertain Louisville Jan. 29 before heading to Medina to play league foe Highland Feb. 1. Both contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.