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by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- It has been a long, slow process.
It has taken nearly two months, but maybe things might finally be falling into place for the Tallmadge boys basketball team.
The host Blue Devils improved to 4-11 on the season with a 36-33 victory over Louisville Jan. 29 at James O. Maddox Court. It was their third win in their last four games.
Tallmadge's latest victory wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination.
The Blue Devils struggled offensively and they had to rally in the final four minutes after losing a nine-point lead.
But Tallmadge got it done.
The Blue Devils played strong defense throughout the game and made their free throws. Tallmadge converted 11-of-14 shots from the foul line.
"We have been playing a little better," Blue Devils' second-year head coach Aaron Hinkle said. "We made some big free throws, I'll take 11-of-14 in a three-point game.
"It was the kind of game I expected it to be -- a physical, grind-it-out game. I thought it was our best defensive effort of the year."
Tallmadge built a 25-16 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Leopards (3-13) rallied to take a five-point lead (33-28) with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game.
Louisville did not score again as the Blue Devils ended the game with an 8-0 run.
Nate Bickar's steal and layup with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining gave Tallmadge a 34-33 lead.
Bryon Cook scored the last two points when he converted both ends of a one-and-one at the charity stripe with 15.1 left.
Cook and Damon Gidley each got a key defensive rebound in the last 20 seconds to preserve the win.
"When they [the Leopards] took the lead, we stayed patient defensively," Hinkle said. "We stayed within the big picture. We responded to adversity and found a way to win."
Cook, who mad 6-of-7 foul shots on the evening, led the Blue Devils with 10 points.
"Bryon got all of his points in the second half," Hinkle said. "He has the ability to get to the rim and draw fouls. He hit some big free throws. Bryon and Damon got some huge rebounds even though they [the Leopards] hurt us on the glass."
Guard Colten Stricker scored seven points and point guard Nate Bickar added six points for Tallmadge.
"I thought Nate had an excellent game despite being saddled with foul trouble," Hinkle said.
Bryce Mathie led Louisville with 10 points and teammate Alex Schooley scored eight points for the Leopards.
The Blue Devils fell to 2-7 in the Suburban League after losing a commanding 69-37 decision to Copley Jan. 25 on the road. The Indians outscored Tallmadge 22-2 in the third quarter.
No one scored more than six points for the Blue Devils.
Tallmadge was scheduled to visit league foe Highland Feb. 1 in Medina. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to host league rival Nordonia Feb. 5. They are set to visit Wadsworth in a Suburban League showdown Feb. 8. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.