by Steve Batko | Correspondent
Macedonia -- It's easy to talk about the what ifs for the Tallmadge girls basketball and its postseason.
The Lady Blue Devils lost a 47-38 heartbreaker to second-seeded Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (19-6) in the Macedonia Division II district semifinals Feb. 28 at Nordonia High School.
If Tallmadge had just gotten a few early shots to drop or some bounces went its way -- who knows?
Junior forward Mary Ryan nearly willed the Lady Blue Devils to the big upset.
More on Ryan later.
Tallmadge ended its season with the second most wins in school history with an 18-7 mark -- second only to the 1998-99 state semifinal team that had 22 wins under Greg Whitmer.
Head coach Bill Johnson couldn't say enough about his girls.
"I know I have to say this and I mean it with all respect, but we were not the best basketball team on the court, but we played like it and our girls had more heart,"he said.
"We deserved to win with how we played.
"Our execution was absolutely fantastic. We were tremendous on both ends of the ball and I know Mary Ryan was incredible, but this was a team effort. Everyone did their job. They did what we asked."
This was a game -- despite the Lady Blue Devils' record and their fourth seed -- that was supposed to be owned by St. V.
When Ryan scored off a feed from junior guard Kelsey Rice with 1 minute, 4 seconds left, Tallmadge sliced the Irish lead to 41-36. It was Ryan's 19th point in the second half.
The Lady Blue Devils' defense had just forced a five-second call to go with the 16 Irish turnovers it forced in the game.
That was as close as Tallmadge got down the stretch as Kailey May hit two free throws with 56.8 seconds left to give St. V a 43-36 lead.
Rice missed a shot on the next possession for Tallmadge, but the Lady Blue Devils regained the ball and junior guard Hallie Allen missed a contested three-point shot with 41 ticks left.
Shannon Jack then scored on a layup in transition to seal the win for the Irish with 33.8 seconds left.
"We had some opportunities, but really, I don't have a bad word to say about our play," Johnson said. "I am so proud of the girls."
Ryan finished with 22 points and scored all of the team's 13 points in the third period.
Rice, who finished with six assists and five rebounds, fed Ryan on cuts to the hoop and got her the ball near the free throw line.
Ryan converted against a much bigger Irish squad.
"Mary was fantastic," Johnson said. "She did what we told her to do and she was taking those open shots."
The Lady Blue Devil guards -- Rice, Allen and senior Demi DeLorenzo -- had only one field goal, but they did so much more with their defense, ball-handling and spreading out the court on offense with skip passes and ball movement. Tallmadge had only nine turnovers.
Junior wing Kirsten Lightel netted six points off the bench on two three-pointers, while senior post Leah Makuch added four points, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
"Our shot selection was very good and we just needed a few shots to drop early in the game," Johnson said.
Senior center Amanda Brumbaugh added two points and had a huge bucket to cap a 6-1 Lady Blue Devils' run with 2:25 left in the first half.
Defensively, Tallmadge mixed things up and focused on Irish standout 6-foot-2 forward Jordan Korinek, who averaged 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds coming into the game.
Although Korinek scored five big points in the fourth, she was held to 11 points and nine rebounds.
Jack, a guard who hits for 14.8 points, was held to just seven.
Wing Amelia Motz was the one who burned the Blue Devils with 16 points, but she also was the player that Johnson conceded in his game plan.
"Our main focus was Korinek and something had to give and that was Motz," he said. "We were OK with her taking shots and she hurt us a few times. Our defense was outstanding."