by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- When the Tallmadge boys basketball team hosted Nordonia Feb. 5, it was a battle of two teams with different agendas.
For the Knights, it was about staying prefect in the Suburban League and pumping up their resumé ahead of the district tournament draw. For the Blue Devils, it was abount maintaining the solid play they've had in recent weeks against one of the league's best.
Tallmadge hung with the Knights for a quarter. Then, the afterburners got turned on.
Nordonia outscored the Blue Devils 19-4 in the second quarter to blow the game open and were not threatened the rest of the way. The Knights finished with a 67-33 win.
Nordonia improved to 16-2 overall and 11-0 in the Suburban League with the win. Tallmadge well to 5-13 overall and 2-9 in the league.
Blue Devils head coach Aaron Hinkle said the Knights' athleticism showed.
"I think Nordonia does a good job of pressuring you and making you do things on offense you don't want to," Hinkle said. "I thought we did a good job spreading them out in the first quarter. We had a couple of good looks that didn't go down.
"We made a few mistakes and they made us pay," Hinkle added. "They were 15-2 for a reason."
Nordonia head coach Matt Cash said a variety of factors led to the slow start.
"We've been practicing and dealing with some sickness, so that hurts," Cash said. "Coach Hinkle did a good job of spreading us out. We had to make some adjustments and make some steals."
Outside a three-pointer early from Nick Piotrowski, the Knights were cold from the field early.
Tallmadge made better use of its scoring chances, but simply didn't have that many of them. The Blue Devils trailed 11-7 after one quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Tallmadge threw several exotic defenses at the Knights, switching from a 1-3-1 zone to box-and-one to a triangle-and-two on virtually every possession.
It worked well until Nordonia found its mid-range shooting touch midway through the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Knights' defense was consistent: A pressing man-to-man trap that was either causing steals or forcing the Blue Devils into the middle.
Once inside, Nordonia center Chris Scott and forward Eugene Coleman made trying for layups a dicey proposition. Nordonia had eight blocks on the night.
"We like to have Chris hang back and play a 'one-man zone,'" Cash said.
A pair of putback layups from forward Andrew Francesconi accounted for all of Tallmadge's second-quarter points.
Meanwhile, Nordonia opened the game up by hitting something rarely scene at the high school level.
"I was impressed," Hinkle said. "They hit a lot of mid-range jumpers in the second quarter. All and all, you'll take that, but it opened the game up."
Tallmadge had to know it wasn't going to be their night when Knights' guard Alex Alders threw up a shot from just inside halfcourt that went in at the halftime buzzer.
Nordonia led 30-11 at the half.
Blue Devils' guard Anthony Gotto found his shooting stroke early in the third quarter, nailing a trio of three-pointers. As result, Tallmadge scored more in the first four minutes of the second half than it had in the first.
Gotto scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter.
The problem was for the Blue Devils was the faster pace of the game suited the Knights just fine.
Scott started to assert himself on the boards and scored eight points in the quarter. Meanwhile, threes started coming in from Alders and Max Hartman for the Knights.
"We play nine guys every night and have 11 on varsity," Cash said. "We want to wear your down so that in the third and fourth quarter, those three-pointers don't fall."
With Nordonia up 54-28 after three, Scott didn't play a minute of the fourth quarter. However, the Knights still opened the quarter on a 7-0 run, pushing the lead to as much as 61-28.
With Nordonia sending in the reserves, Tallmadge cut into the lead a bit, but it was too little, too late.
Scott finished 16 points and 11 rebounds, while guard Alex Alders added 13 off the bench.
Piotrowski added nine, while Coleman had eight points and five blocks.
Francesconi added 10 points for the Blue Devils, but no other Tallmadge player had more than three points.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to face Wadsworth Feb. 8. Results were not available at press time.
Tallmadge is set to play a pair of road game this week, traveling to Ravenna Feb. 12 and Green Feb. 16. Varsity game time both nights is 7:30 p.m.