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Title hopes hit wall for girls hoops

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: February 12, 2017 12:00 AM
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TALLMADGE -- For the Tallmadge girls basketball team, the task was simple.

Win their last two conference games and the Lady Blue Devils could claim their first Suburban League American Conference title.

The path is not hopeless just yet, but Tallmadge now needs help if it wants to get a piece of the conference championship.

The host Lady Blue Devils' eight-game winning streak came to a heartbreaking end after suffering a 41-37 defeat to Revere Feb. 8 at James O. Maddox Court.

With the loss, Tallmadge, which also lost to the Lady Minutemen 45-41 Jan. 4 in Bath Township, dropped to 16-4 overall and 8-3 in the American Conference.

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Revere improved to 13-7 overall and 8-2 in the conference.

The Lady Blue Devils need to defeat Aurora in their conference finale and some help from Barberton or Copley.

Tallmadge is scheduled to play the Lady Greenmen Feb. 15 on the road. Varsity tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Lady Minutemen are scheduled to host Copley Feb. 13 and Barberton Feb. 15.

If the Lady Blue Devils defeat Aurora and Revere loses to either the Lady Indians or the Lady Magics, it will be a three-way tie for the conference championship.

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"We have to focus on Aurora (Feb. 15) at their place and hope somehow, some way someone knocks off Revere," Tallmadge head coach Collin Epstein said.

If the Lady Blue Devils don't get a piece of the title pie, it will be because of their poor shooting performance against the Lady Minutemen.

After senior guard/forward Brin Stralka made two free throws a little more than a minute into the second quarter, Tallmadge had a 19-10 lead.

And then the Lady Blue Devils went into a black hole for the rest of the game.

Tallmadge made just 1-of-12 shots from the floor in the second quarter as Revere tied the game at 21 with an 11-2 run to conclude the period.

The Lady Blue Devils couldn't find the range after halftime either.

Although it got some critical loose balls and several offensive rebounds, Tallmadge simply couldn't put the ball in the hoop.

Sadly, a number of those misses came from point-blank range.

"It came down to finishing," Epstein said. "We had a lot of misses where we were right there."

Despite their shooting woes, Tallmadge scored seven straight points midway through the fourth quarter to take a 34-33 lead.

Senior forward Jamie McGhee scored a layup on a nifty bounce pass by freshman guard Lizzie Bickar to start the rally.

Junior forward Maia Aizpurua followed with a no-hesitation 3-pointer from the left side and McGhee scored the go-ahead basket on a short jumper.

But the Lady Blue Devils' mini offensive explosion hit a dead spot after that, thanks to some turnover issues.

As a result, the Lady Minutemen regained the lead they did not relinquish the rest of the way.

"We turned it over two or three times," Epstein said. "We had a couple of defensive lapses."

After Tallmadge missed a shot from short range, sophomore post player Grace Hete scored a layup on a fast break after a pump fake to give Revere a 35-34 advantage.

The Lady Minutemen got a layup from senior guard Alexa Langenfeld and then made 1-of-2 free throws on their next two offensive possessions. But Lady Blue Devils' junior point guard Sara Johnson made it a one-possession game (39-37) when she buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 20 seconds left.

At that point, Tallmadge needed to force a turnover and if that didn't happen, it had to send Revere to the free throw line.

The Lady Minutemen were still in the one-and-one situation when Viktoria Farian went to the charity stripe with 10.3 seconds left.

However, the senior post player delivered the dagger when she found nothing but net on both of her free-throw attempts.

"I don't know if we've had a pretty victory all season," Revere head coach Kevin Verde said. "We've been Calamity Jane and the Bad News Bears, but we seem to figure it out and do just enough to win.

"The girls fight for each other. They don't know how many minutes they play, but they do know what the final score is."

The Lady Blue Devils scored a total of just nine points in the second and third quarters. At one point, Tallmadge missed 23-of-26 shots from the floor.

Senior guard Emily Brock scored nine of her game-high 14 points for Revere. Here added 9 points for the lady Minutemen.

"We played extremely hard and played good defense," Epstein said. "We know what they're going to do and they know what we're going to do. Brock is a good player. She knocked down some 3s."

Tallmadge, which honored Stralka, McGhee, guards Rochelle Haught, Olivia Ayres and Ally Warmenhoven and forward Jessica Gardella on senior night, earned a 54-36 victory in the junior varsity contest.

With the win, the Lady Blue Devils' JV squad improved to 18-1. Sophomore Andreana Gotto led the way with 12 points and freshman Katie Hussing had 10 points. Freshmen Jordyn Severns and Jillian Catalano added 9 and 8 points, respectively, for Tallmadge.

The Lady Blue Devils earned a 51-39 victory over Lake Feb. 6 in Uniontown.

Stralka led Tallmadge, which posted a 51-29 win in the JV game, with 13 points and Ayres and Gardella each scored 10 points.

The Lady Blue Devils were scheduled to visit Suburban League crossover rival Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 11. Results were not available at press time.

Tallmadge received the top seed at the Uniontown Division II sectional-district tournament. The Lady Blue Devils earned a first-round bye and are set to entertain the Field-Canton South winner in a sectional title game Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

Norton, Akron Archbishop Hoban and Alliance Marlington received the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.

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