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Tallmadge boys hoops team beats Louisville after finally conquering nemesis Green

Published: January 19, 2014 12:00 AM
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by Frank Aceto

Associate Sports Editor

Uniontown -- When the Tallmadge boys basketball team reached Green High School, first-year head coach Mike Bluey noticed something valuable was missing.

That would be the scorebook.

Such an event wasn't the end of the world for the Blue Devils. But having that particular item sure would have made their statistician's life a lot easier.

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Fortunately, Tallmadge, thanks to some last-minute maneuvering, eventually got its scorebook.

And let's just say the Blue Devils will make sure it never gets lost again.

Tallmadge pulled off a stunning 54-43 upset against Green Jan. 10 in Uniontown.

It was the Blue Devils' first win against the Bulldogs since the 2008-09 season. Tallmadge also posted a come-from-behind 69-68 victory over Louisville Jan. 14 on the road.

Since then, it hadn't been really close at all.

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Green has toyed with its main Suburban League rival in recent years, including a 70-35 whipping last season at James O. Maddox Court.

Of course, such a scenario certainly wasn't a far-fetched one by any means.

Tallmadge has fallen on hard times recently, while Green has emerged as one of the area powerhouses.

It's a safe bet that no one will consider Tallmadge (7-4, 4-2) among the area's elite just yet.

But a victory like this goes a long way in providing more theater to the Blue Devils' potential breakthrough season.

"It's a great win, but it's more about us since we lost our last two," Bluey said. "When you come to Green, the lights are just a little bit brighter. We know that, the kids know that and the fans know that. The fact that they were able to bounce back speaks volumes."

Besides the scorebook fiasco, Tallmadge got distracted in other ways.

Prior to the game, the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) honored former multi-sport star David Lough, a Green graduate who is now an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals.

The Blue Devils also had to figure out how to stop junior guard Austin Marciniak, who scored 11 of his team-high 26 points in the first quarter.

Despite the Bulldogs' hot shooting and dominance on the boards, Tallmadge managed to hang around and was down just 18-15 early in the second quarter.

And that's when the contest completely changed.

The Blue Devils befuddled Green with a 15-0 run in the next seven minutes. When forward Andrew Francesconi, who scored a game-high 27 points, knocked down a pair of free throws, Tallmadge had a 30-18 lead.

Reserve guard Justin Cambria scored 10 of his 11 points during that flurry for the Blue Devils.

And amazingly enough, Tallmadge did this without the services of starting guard Nate Bickar, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.

Tallmadge also had some key players in foul trouble in the second quarter.

"We didn't panic," Bluey said. "We took massive steps in terms of moving forward when it came to adversity."

Marciniak's fourth and final three-pointer of the game cut the Blue Devils' lead to just six (47-41) with less than 90 seconds left.

But the Tallmadge defense got key stops down the stretch and the Blue Devils put the game out of reach at the free throw line.

Tallmadge made 15 field goals and 24 of 32 fouls shots in the win. Surprisingly, the Blue Devils did not make a single three-pointer and did not attempt a shot from beyond the arc in the second half.

Francesconi got more than half of his points without exerting himself. He finished 17 of 20 from the charity stripe.

"We knew we were the underdogs," Francesconi said. "It's a rivalry game and we wanted to win it for our seniors who had never beaten Green."

While Marciniak got his points, Green's other dangerous guard, senior Carson Corle, finished with just two points.

"Anthony Miller, Joseph Vassalotti and Jordan Skeriotis did a great job on Corle," Bluey said.

Guard Colten Stricker added 12 points for Tallmadge. Junior guard Kenton Keeslar finished with 11 points for Green, which made just 5 of 12 shots from the foul line.

As for the scorebook situation, Bluey has Tallmadge head girls basketball coach Bill Johnson to thank.

The Blue Devils statistician, Dave Young, certainly did.

"Bill went to the school and brought it for us," Bluey said. "I was told that Dave has been doing the book for 54 years and he said that's the first time that ever happened."

Against Louisville, Tallmadge outscored the Leopards 25-15 in the final eight minutes to prevail.

Francesconi led the Blue Devils with 26 points and Stricker added 25 points.

Tallmadge was scheduled to host Suburban League foe Cloverleaf Jan. 17. Results were not available at press time.

The Blue Devils are set to entertain Kent Roosevelt Jan. 21 before heading to Revere to play league rival Revere Jan. 24. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

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