by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- When it's all said and done, a three-pointer is just one point higher than any other field goal.
Forgive the Tallmadge boys basketball team's players and coaches if they begged to differ Dec. 28.
The host Blue Devils fell to 5-3 on the season after losing a 71-60 decision to Cuyahoga Falls at James O. Maddox Court.
With the victory, the Black Tigers improved to 4-2.
Tallmadge actually made more shots from the floor (24-23) than Falls did.
But the difference was the Black Tigers made their shots from a bit further away than the Blue Devils did. Falls converted nine three-pointers, including eight in the first half. Tallmadge made a trio of three-pointers.
The Black Tigers also knocked down 15 of 23 foul shots, while the Blue Devils converted just 9 of 18.
The leader of Falls' long-distance barrage was senior guard Jay Slone, who knocked down all five of his three-point attempts in the first 16 minutes. Jay Slone finished with a team-high 19 points.
"I thought all of Jay's shots were good shots," said Black Tigers head coach Rob Slone, who is Jay's father. "[Senior guards] Josh [Ricker] and Simon [Moskowitz] did a good job of hitting the gaps and kicking it to him."
As a result of Jay Slone's shooting stroke, Falls took a 38-25 halftime lead. That advantage increased to as much as 20 (47-27) with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.
Tallmadge cut its deficit to eight on two occasions (66-58 and 61-53) in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils might have made things more interesting if they made a few more free throws down the stretch.
Tallmadge converted just 4 of 10 shots from the foul line in the final eight minutes.
In the long run, though, it's very difficult to beat an opponent when you're trading two-pointers for three-pointers.
"The second half was an even game," Blue Devils' first-year head coach Mike Bluey said. "We were getting twos, but they were getting threes.
"A three-pointer is just like a dunk. It gave them [the Black Tigers] some momentum and got them excited. I thought we could have done a better job of closing down their three-point shooters, but they shot the ball well."
Jay Slone scored just two points on a pair of free throws and took just one shot in the second half. Fortunately for Falls, his explosive performance in the first half was all it needed.
That's because the Black Tigers have plenty of weapons at their disposal.
Falls' 6-foot-7 senior post player, Angelo Cugini, scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half. Cugini knocked down a couple of three-point shots in the first quarter and also converted a couple of alley-oop passes from Slone and Ricker.
Other Black Tigers who provided some scoring punch were Ricker, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the final eight minutes, and junior guard/forward Tyler Adams, who finished with nine points.
"I thought their [the Black Tigers'] key guy was Ricker," Bluey said. "I thought we did a great job on him in the first half, but that left Slone open.
"We believed Ricker was the guy that made them go. If we could contain him, that gave us a chance to stay in the game. But give Falls credit. They're a good team."
The Black Tigers earned their fourth win in their last five games. They rebounded from a 39-37 loss to Hilliard Darby Dec. 21 on the road. Cugini did not play in that game because of a sinus infection.
Junior forward Andrew Francesconi led the Blue Devils with a game-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds.
While Francesconi got his points, he had to work extremely hard for just about all of them.
Junior guard Colten Stricker and sophomore guard Justin Cambria added 12 and 11 points for Tallmadge, which lost a 54-50 decision in the junior varsity contest.
"It was a really big win for us," Rob Slone said. "This is a game that we might have lost last year because we would have lost our composure.
The Blue Devils don't want to take that approach either.
Nevertheless, Bluey believes a loss to a quality team like this will only help his players down the road.
"This is a good learning tool," he said. "They were better than us on this night, but we showed we can compete. I'm proud of the guys. When they got down 20, they didn't pack it in."
Tallmadge was scheduled to visit Suburban League rival Wadsworth Jan. 3. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to visit Akron Garfield Jan. 7 and league foe Green Jan. 10. Both varsity games are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.