by Steve Batko | Correspondent
Stow -- Lightning-quick speed isn't something you can manufacture so when Tallmadge head boys basketball coach Aaron Hinkle had to face Akron Buchtel in the postseason, it wasn't easy to simulate.
The Griffins sped to an easy 68-46 division II sectional final win over the Blue Devils March 1 at Stow-Munroe Falls High School. Tallmadge could not stop the Buchtel's speed in transition.
"Obviously, what they did well was what we were trying to avoid," said Hinkle. "Their pressure is what obviously happened and they are so athletic.
"We can't simulate speed and during the course of the year, we have not faced quickness like that.
"What we wanted to do was to realize there may be some turnovers, but we needed to limit points off of those and that's what hurt."
The Griffins (15-6) forced 24 turnovers with their full-court and half-court traps as the Blue Devils finished 7-17 on the season.
After Buchtel took a 20-6 lead after one quarter of play, the Griffins scored 12 of the next 14 points to extend the lead to 32-8 with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first half.
"I was really proud of how our kids hung in there and competed," said Hinkle. "We played hard."
Wrapping up their basketball careers at Tallmadge were seniors Bryon Cook, a forward, Kyle Johnson (guard) and Anthony Gotto (guard/forward).
"Our seniors did a tremendous job and they will be sorely missed," said Hinkle.
"One of the top plays for Bryon Cook was when he stepped up late [and with four fouls], he took a charge to get the ball back. One of our goals was for Bryon not to foul out and that play kind of epitomized his play through his career."
"Kyle Johnson has great character and did whatever we asked him to do. He sparked us off the bench and was a huge contributor. Anthony [Gotto] has been a major contributor in two sports here."
The Blue Devils were led by the sharp shooting of sophomore wing Joe Vassalotti, who had 11 points. He buried a trio of three-pointers in the loss and was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Cook added seven points and grabbed four rebounds. He was 5-of-6 at the free throw line.
Sophomore post Andrew Francesconi netted eight points, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists, while sophomore post John Rensel scored seven points.
Another sophomore, guard Colten Stricker, had a strong overall game with five points, three rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and two steals. Junior Damon Gidley added five points and had six rebounds.
Buchtel was led by sophomore Deric Rucker, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals off of the bench. Demonte Hicks scored 13 points and had five rebounds, while Tyler Jones netted eight of his 10 points in the first half and added three steals.
"We are young and we're excited about the future with our junior class, plus four sophomores who play in our top eight," said Hinkle.