by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- Things rarely run smoothly on opening night of a high school basketball season.
There's too much nervous energy, too many kinks to work out and sometimes new faces to integrate.
On its opening night, the Tallmadge girls basketball team looked excellent in most areas of the game.
Unfortunately, the one area they struggled in is kind of critical: Scoring.
Tallmadge must have thought a lid was on the basket during its opener Nov. 27 at home against Streetsboro.
The Lady Blue Devils managed only 17 first-half points and missed a ton of layups.
"It wasn't the fact that we didn't execute on offense," said Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson. "We got a lot of good looks; it just didn't go in. I don't know how many layups we had that were halfway down and came back out."
Fortunately for the Lady Blue Devils, their defense was in midseason form.
Despite their shooting woes, Tallmadge never trailed in the contest and ended up with a 39-29 win over the Rockets (1-2), who lost 41-36 loss to Copley Dec. 1 in Streetsboro. The Lady Blue Devils improved to 1-0.
How good was Tallmadge's defense?
The Lady Blue Devils forced the Rockets into 27 turnovers, 17 of which came off steals.
Rockets head coach Allison Carey said her team played into Tallmadge's hands.
"Especially with a team that's good at turning defense into offense, you've got to take care of the ball," Carey said. "They knew not to let the ball get into post. They kept their defense on us constantly."
Junior point guard Kelsey Rice had a huge game, even though she only had four points in the game.
Rice was a catalyst on defense for the Lady Blue Devils and finished with nine assists.
Those nine assists made Rice Tallmadge's all-time leader in career assists with 258.
Her second assist of the night broke the previous record of 250, held by 2009 Tallmadge graduate Amanda Bennett.
The Lady Blue Devils were able to seize the early lead, thanks in part to a three-pointer by guard Demi DeLorenzo.
Tallmadge took a 12-7 lead after one quarter.
The biggest shooting problems for the Lady Blue Devils came in the second quarter.
Outside of a layup from DeLorenzo and a tear drop runner from Rice, Tallmadge couldn't buy a bucket in the quarter.
Senior center Amanda Brumbaugh also split a pair of free throws. The Lady Blue Devils scored just five points in the quarter.
Streetsboro point guard Shannon Blondeaux matched Tallmadge in scoring in the second quarter. Blondeaux split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 17-16, which remained the score at halftime.
Needing a spark on offense, the Lady Blue Devils found it when Rice made some pretty passes into the post early in the third quarter.
Mary Ryan was the primary beneficiary of Rice's assists, as she put up three layups in the period. Ryan led Tallmadge with nine points and seven rebounds.
Kirsten Lightel also had nine points for Tallmadge.
After a Hallie Allen three-pointer pushed the lead to 24-17 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the quarter, Johnson called time-out and told the Lady Blue Devils to engage its full-court press.
The Rockets could not handle the press as Tallmadge finished the quarter on an 8-2 run.
By the time the quarter was over, the Lady Blue Devils had outscored Streetsboro 15-3, with a short jumper from Blondeaux accounting for Streetsboro's lone field goal.
Up 32-19 after three, Tallmadge opened the fourth on a 6-0 run to put the game out of reach.
The Lady Blue Devils' shooting woes returned a bit in the fourth quarter, but Streetsboro didn't have a pulse on offense until the final minute of the game.
That's when the Rockets turned to their own full-court press.
After scoring only five points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, Streetsboro scored eight points in the final minute, including a pair of layups from Marra Woods.
Woods led all scorers with 10 points and six rebounds. Blondeaux finished with nine points and six rebounds.
Blondeaux led the Rockets with 12 points against Copley and Mikaela Dombrowski had nine points. Streetsboro earned a 46-22 win in the junior varsity contest.
The varsity team posted a 42-31 victory over Portage Trail Conference rival James A. Garfield in its season debut Nov. 24 in Garrettsville.
Streetsboro is scheduled to host PTC Metro Division foe Springfield Dec. 5 before heading to Ravenna for a Metro Division showdown Dec. 8. Both contests are set to begin at 7:30 p.m.