by Steve Batko | Correspondent
Tallmadge -- Andrew Francesconi had the recipe and he even admitted a little luck was involved with his talents as the Tallmadge boys basketball team won a wild game to open its postseason.
Francesconi banked in a 3-point bomb at the top of the arc as the buzzer sounded in regulation to force overtime.
It was a wild scene as the student body piled on the James O. Maddox Court as the host Blue Devils won a 59-56 overtime thriller over Revere in a Stow-Munroe Falls Division II sectional semifinal game Feb. 26.
"Lucky things do happen," said the standout 6-foot-4 junior after the wild win.
Facing elimination, thanks to a fierce comeback by Revere, the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (13-9) trailed 55-52 and had the ball after a time-out with 6.3 seconds left in regulation.
Francesconi had his number called and came off a screen in the paint and another pick near the 3-point arc when sophomore Justin Cambria passed him the ball beyond the arc with the clock winding down.
With Zach Lalkowski's hand in his face, Francesconi rose up and banked in an off-balance 3-point bomb as the gym erupted to force overtime at 55-55.
In the extra session, the Minutemen's Teddy Hughes held the ball as instructed near midcourt without pressure and burned more than two minutes off the clock in the four-minute overtime period.
As senior guard Nate Bickar suddenly went after the ball, Hughes threw an errant pass and turned it over with 1:49 left.
After both teams traded turnovers, a pair of Colten Stricker free throws with 1:15 left gave Tallmadge the lead for good at 57-55. Lalkowski hit 1 of 2 charity tosses with 54 ticks left to make it 57-56.
However, the Blue Devils had another turnover against Revere's trapping defense, but junior Jarrett Ross stole the ball back for Tallmadge.
Francesconi then hit two free throws with 6.9 ticks left to make it 59-56 and seal the win as the Minutemen (9-14) never got off a potential game-tying 3-point shot.
"It was great," said Francesconi. "We had a screen and I came up through the picket fence [at the end of regulation]. Lalkowski came up strong and forced me to take a dribble, which really didn't help, but I got the shot off."
Tallmadge was scheduled to entertain sixth-seeded Streetsboro (15-6) in a sectional final contest March 1. Results were not available at press time.
The winner is set to play the Cleveland Central Catholic-Cleveland Benedictine winner in a district semifinal game March 5 at Stow-Munroe Falls High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"It was a great win and we want to go to our best player in that situation if we could," Blue Devils' first-year head coach Mike Bluey of the bank triple by Francesconi.
"I was OK with Revere's slow down in the OT. I think we caught our breath. Our kids were excited and it gave us a chance to get our feet back. Revere has some tough kids and they were ready to play. It was a great high school game."
One of the key plays lost in the madness was the defense of Ross and his subsequent steal.
Ross came in and excelled against point guard Jordan Holtkamp (23 points and four assists), who had 18 points in the second half. Ross forced the lead guard to his off hand and limited his penetration.
"Jarrett did a great job," Blue said."I think that both Ross and [junior] Anthony Miller are our top defenders and we will sub defense for offense with those two. They understand their roles."
Pacing the Blue Devils, who finished 3-0 against Revere this season, was Francesconi with 23 points and eight rebounds.
However, things started slow as Francesconi missed his first six shots in the first quarter.
It didn't matter as the Minutemen self-destructed with seven first-quarter turnovers and only one field goal as Tallmadge led 12-4 after the opening period.
In fact, the Blue Devils had a 15-1 spurt and led 19-4 until a Dezmond Rozek layup in traffic stopped the run with 4:09 left in the first half. Revere answered with a 5-0 run and trailed 27-16 at the half.
The Minutemen, who entered the clash on a five-game skid, was energized in the second half with a switch from a 1-2-2 half-court zone defense to a trapping man set.
A 10-3 run by the Minutemen cut the lead to 30-26 with Rozek's putback at the 3:52 mark of the third, but Tallmadge responded with its own 5-0 spurt.
Holtkamp buried one of his four treys to cut the lead to 35-32 with a 6-0 Revere run at the 2:29 mark. Heading into the fourth, Tallmadge had a slim 36-32 lead.
Revere canned seven triples in the second half and one by Lalkowski (18 points) gave the Minutemen a 37-36 advantage with 7:08 left.
Tallmadge responded with a 9-2 run, but Revere answered again with a 10-3 spurt and led 49-48 after a pair of free throws by Holtkamp with 1:40 left.
Francesconi then went up for a layup, but Lalkowski came out of nowhere to swat it away with 1:06 left.
A pair of free throws by Holtkamp with 35.6 ticks left gave Revere a 51-48 lead. Francesconi then hit a layup only to have Holtkamp convert two more charity tosses with 23.6 seconds left to make it 53-50.
Once again, the Blue Devils fired back as Cambria made a layup to cut it to 53-52 with 15.7 ticks left.
Revere beat Tallmadge's press as Dylan Geig sank two free throws to forge a 55-52 advantage with 8.5 ticks left to set up the heroics by Francesconi.
Stricker scored 13 points, while Cambria sparked the team off the bench with eight points and three steals.
The Blue Devils didn't enter the postseason the way Bluey had wanted to they had a 61-51 loss against Suburban League rival Cloverleaf Feb. 21 in Lodi.
Tallmadge, which finished 8-6 in the league, allowed 39 points in the second half and the loss spoiled a brilliant effort by Francesconi, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds.