by Michael Leonard
Tallmadge -- It has been an up-and-down season for the Tallmadge girls basketball team, particularly against Suburban League opposition.
However, it appears the Lady Blue Devils could be peaking at just the right time.
Tallmadge scored one of its biggest victories of the season Feb. 10. The Lady Blue Devils raced past Mogadore 70-42 at James O. Maddox Court.
Host Tallmadge then raced to an early lead and held on to defeat league rival Cloverleaf 49-40 on Senior Night Feb. 12.
The Lady Blue Devils' record stood at 14-7 overall and 6-7 in the Suburban League prior to its regular-season finale at Green Feb. 13. Results were not available at press time.
Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson said, after a wild first quarter, the Lady Blue Devils pretty much had their way with the Wildcats.
"They made five 3-pointers in the first quarter," Johnson said. "It's 23-19 after one quarter, but we only let them score 23 points after that.
"Once we were able to settle down and get to the basket, we were able to dictate our game against them
" We want to run and get to the rim. They want to run and shoot 3s all game."
Mogadore came into James O. Maddox Court at 18-1, but Johnson said his team had a chip on its shoulder when it played its backyard rivals.
Tallmadge got huge nights from senior Mary Ryan and freshman Olivia Ayres, each of whom had 18 points in the win. Ryan also had six rebounds.
Senior Kirsten Lightel added nine points, while senior Kelsey Rice was her usual well-rounded self, finishing with seven points, seven assists, seven steals and four blocked shots.
Rice, Lightel and Ryan were honored prior to the game against the Lady Colts.
All three players have been on varsity all four years with Johnson.
The Lady Blue Devils coach noted all three seniors will graduate in the top 20 of Tallmadge's Class of 2014.
Perhaps buoyed by the energy of Senior Night, the Lady Blue Devils came out of the gates on fire on both ends of the floor.
All five Tallmadge starters scored in the first quarter, while the Lady Blue Devils' defense limited Cloverleaf to a single field goal in the first eight minutes.
As a result, Tallmadge finished the first quarter with a 20-3 lead.
While Cloverleaf was able to find its shooting touch a bit in the second quarter, the Lady Blue Devils still led 34-15 at halftime.
However, as well as Tallmadge played in the first half, Johnson said he knew Cloverleaf would respond.
"I think the energy was so high in here after the Senior Night festivities," Johnson said. "It's tough to sustain that for all four quarters. We still got some good looks, but they got some long rebounds and they got out in transition.
"I told the girls at the half, 'They're a good team and they're going to come after us.' It's a little hard to stay focused after that."
Both teams saw their offense go cold in the third quarter, as Cloverleaf outscored Tallmadge 6-5 in the third, leaving the Lady Blue Devils with a 39-21 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Colts made things interesting.
Led by some layups by Briona Burgos, Cloverleaf finally cut into the lead. Meanwhile, Tallmadge managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter -- a layup from Ryan -- and missed the front end of three straight one-and-one situations.
The Lady Colts managed to cut the lead down to 43-37 off a Burgos layup, before Ayres hit a pair of free throws to stretch it back to 45-37.
Cloverleaf went into quick fouling mode and Tallmadge didn't have its best night at the line, going 13 of 22 from the charity stripe.
However, the Lady Blue Devils hit enough free throws in the final two minutes to keep the Lady Colts at bay.
Johnson called a time-out with 12 seconds left to allow his three seniors to get a standing ovation as they left the court.
All three seniors had good nights. Lightel led all scorers with 15 points and four steals, while Rice had six points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots. Ryan added eight points, six rebounds and three assists.
Ayres and junior forward Joanna Catalano each had 10 points.
Jessica Lindemeyer led Cloverleaf with 10 points.
Tallmadge is scheduled to play one more game at Maddox Court this season. The second-seeded Lady Blue Devils are set to host the winner of Navarre Fairless-Akron Buchtel Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. to open their Division II playoff run.
If victorious, Tallmadge is scheduled to play in a Division II district semifinal contest Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Lake High School in Uniontown.