Riders can't find range in loss to Blue Devils

By Eric Clutter | Correspondent Published:

By Eric Clutter | Correspondent

Neither Tallmadge nor Kent Roosevelt were able to score in the opening four minutes of play during Tuesday night's non-league game.

Ultimately, the difference in the Blue Devils' surprisingly easy 63-41 victory over the Rough Riders was the fact that Tallmadge's shooting prowess eventually warmed up to the temperature inside the confines of Roosevelt High School, while the hosts' accuracy remained as frigid as the single-digit reading outside.

The Blue Devils hit a season-high nine 3-point field goals, had four players reach double figures in scoring and played sound defense over 32 minutes to register their third win of the season against 10 losses.

"We have been practicing better offensively," said Tallmadge coach Aaron Hinkle. "Obviously we've been working all year, (but) we haven't shown it much. This was the first game that we were able to come out and everybody played to their strengths, did what they are capable of. I thought it was a good team victory."

Tallmadge sophomore Andrew Francesconi, who led everyone with 17 points, finally broke the ice at the 3:40 mark of the first frame with a putback. Roosevelt's Corey Mitchell answered seconds later, but the Blue Devils reeled off 11 more points over the next three minutes to lead 13-6 through eight minutes.

Four different Blue Devils hit 3s in the second quarter, and thanks to an 11-0 run, Tallmadge established a 31-11 lead with less than two minutes left in the half.

The Rough Riders, who concluded a three-game homestand with a 1-2 mark to fall to 4-9 overall, posted the final five points of the half, but were not able to sustain that bit of offensive production into the second half.

With its defense holding Roosevelt's top three scorers -- Mitchell, Joseph Watts and Myles Wright -- to a combined 13 points, Tallmadge continued to dominate the final 16 minutes, extending the margin to 33 early in the fourth quarter.

Nate Bickar and Anthony Gotto, who have been out of the lineup for a good portion of the season, scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Colten Stricker also added 10 points off the bench for the Blue Devils.

"I am very proud of the way our guys responded in terms of moving the basketball and sharing the basketball," said Hinkle. "And guys not trying to do too much, but playing to their strengths."

Mitchell's modest seven points paced Roosevelt, which converted only 13 field goals for the game.

"We preach defense first, and I thought we came in with a good focus defensively," said Hinkle. "Then finally when we settled in offensively, we kept playing defensively and that good defense just snowballed into good offense."

As problematic as his team's offense was, Rough Riders coach Ben Dunlap was more disturbed by the play of the defense.

"We were lost on defense tonight. I thought this was our poorest defensive performance in a month," said the first-year coach. "It looked like we forgot what we worked on for the last month, when we started making our little turnaround in being more competitive. We were prepared, knew what they were going to do. They shot the ball better than we had seen them. A couple times we went out and I thought we contested and they still knocked them down. And there were a lot of times where we didn't even contest shots."

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