By Frank Aceto | Record Publishing Co.
Kelsey Rice hasn't reached double-digits in the scoring column too often throughout her career.
Thankfully for the Tallmadge girls basketball team, she does just about everything else.
Thanks to the all-around play of Rice, the Blue Devils improved to 8-2 on the season after earning a convincing 59-40 victory over Rootstown on Thursday night at Tallmadge High School's James O. Maddox Court.
Rice, Tallmadge's third-year starting point guard, made her presence felt wherever she was standing on the court.
Although she scored just nine points, she lit up the stat sheet in a number of other categories. Rice had six rebounds, four steals, four assists and a jaw-dropping nine blocked shots for the Blue Devils.
"She creates so much havoc," Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson said. "The great thing about her is that when we needed buckets in the third quarter, she took over."
Rice scored seven points in the second half, including some layups on nifty hesitation moves.
Tallmadge took control of the game right away, thanks to its defense.
The Blue Devils got several wide-open layups on steals. Tallmadge forced 27 turnovers on the night.
The Rovers didn't prove to be too efficient when they held on to the ball either.
They missed 20 of their first 22 shots and had just three 2-point field goals for the game. Rootstown scored most of its points on 3-pointers (6) and from the foul line (16-of-20).
"We played a terrible first half," Rovers head coach Jay Airhart said. "We got some good looks. We have to make layups and we have to respond to adversity. They (the Blue Devils) have a very nice point guard. I thought we played very hard in the second half but at that point, the horse is already out of the barn."
Still, Rootstown managed to stay reasonably close for the first 16 minutes.
The Rovers got a little bit of a momentum boost right as the first-half buzzer sounded.
Rootstown senior forward Tori Goodpaster got the ball to junior guard Madison Hartung in the left corner and Hartung buried a 3-pointer as time expired.
Tallmadge still had a 30-13 lead.
"We didn't make as many shots as we wanted, but I thought we played hard," Johnson said. "I thought it was a good test for us."
Rice and guards Demi DeLorenzo and Hallie Allen took charge throughout the game with their defense, passing, rebounding and scoring.
Allen finished with a game-high 12 points and DeLorenzo scored 10 points. Guards Kirsten Lightel and Joanna Catalano each had nine points for Tallmadge.
Madison Hartung and Cayanne Breznak led the Rovers with nine points apiece.
Rootstown hopes to bounce back against Portage Trail Conference County Division rival Garfield on Saturday in Garrettsville.
"The good thing is we have another game in two days," Airhart said. "We're going to face a much-improved Garfield team. We need to shake this off and think about getting back in the league race."