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by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Macedonia -- When Tallmadge met Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in the girls basketball playoffs Feb. 20, the two teams had different agendas.
For the fourth-seeded Lady Blue Devils, it was about taking care of business and advancing.
For the Lady Royals, it was about proving they were a better team than they showed in the teams' first meeting -- a 60-30 Tallmadge win back Dec. 27.
CVCA showed it was better. But the Lady Blue Devils took care of business.
Tallmadge scored a 55-36 win over the Royals in a Division II sectional game at Nordonia High School in Macedonia..
The Lady Blue Devils improved to 17-6 on the season and advanced to play Cleveland St. Martin de Porres Feb. 23 in a sectional final at Nordonia. Results of the sectional final were not available at press time.
If victorious, Tallmadge was set to play the winner of the Cleveland Heights Beaumont-Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary game in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Nordonia.
The Lady Royals ended the season at 8-15.
CVCA kept things close early on, but the Lady Blue Devils pulled away in the second half to advance.
"They came out in a zone in the first quarter," said Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson. "They were able to slow us down a bit. I told them, if we kept defending the way we did early, we'd be fine. Once we got some shots to fall, things got contagious for us."
Lady Royals head coach Ryan Tyna said his team's effort was fine, but it just couldn't find the bottom of the basket.
"They made shots and we didn't," Tyna said. "Mary Ryan and Leah Makuch did a great job for them. Those were the players we knew we needed to stop."
Both teams focused on defense in first quarter, resulting in a 7-6 CVCA advantage after one quarter.
The Lady Royals threw a 1-2-2 zone at the Lady Blue Devils, designed to deny Tallmadge the lane. The move worked for the most part as the Lady Blue Devils could not get any transition baskets.
The game was played at CVCA's pace for the first quarter and a half.
Senior Ashley Tyna accounted for all seven of the Lady Royals' second-quarter points, including a pair of free throws to give CVCA a 14-13 with three minutes left.
It was at that time Tallmadge found its extra gear.
The Lady Blue Devils started getting some fast breaks and their front court benefited.
Makuch and Mary Ryan keyed a 10-0 run to end the first half, giving Tallmadge a 23-14 lead at the half.
In fact, Makuch had perfect shooting night. She went 7-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line to finish with a team-high 20 points and four rebounds.
"It was kind of a quiet 20 points," Johnson said. "When she's aggressive, she's as good as any player in the area. Once we go into our flow, everything started working for us."
The momentum continued into the third quarter as Tallmadge opened on a 10-3 run. Only a three-pointer from CVCA guard LeAnna Mallard stopped the momentum.
As the game went on, the Lady Royals found getting in the lane to be more and more difficult. Ashley Tyna had a putback layup and a pair of free throws in the third quarter, but that was it for inside scoring.
Meanwhile, the Lady Blue Devils nailed a pair of and-one situations in the third as they took over the lane.
Tallmadge pushed its lead to 40-21 after three quarters.
Tyna led CVCA with a game-high 22 points, including going 8-of-8 from the line. She was the only Lady Royal to shoot free throws.
The problem for CVCA was no other player scored more than five points.
"That has been the story of our season," coach Tyna said. "Ashley goes off and gets her points, but we can't get any support for her. We've got better at that in the second half of the year."
"Demi [DeLorenzo] and Hallie [Allen] did a great job on Tyna," Johnson said. "She got her 22 points, but she had to work for all of them."
The Lady Royals' offense was largely reduced to putting up three-pointers in the fourth quarter, while Tallmadge continued to attack down low.
The Lady Blue Devils finished the game by going 12-of-15 from the charity stripe.
Ryan added 15 points for Tallmadge, while Allen had 12 points, including a trio of three-pointers.
"We gradually took over the game, which is a sign of a good team," Johnson said.