Tallmadge Blue Devils get one back from Ravenna Ravens

By Frank Aceto | Record Publishing Co. Published:

Whenever these two teams hook up, fans may be advised to buckle up.

Of course, that's usually good advice during the fall as the Tallmadge and Ravenna football teams have managed to provide plenty of fireworks on the gridiron.

This time, the two teams brought plenty of drama to the basketball court on Tuesday.

And unlike their football squad, the Blue Devils had the final say.

Tallmadge earned a thrilling 79-72 non-league victory over the Ravens at Ravenna High School. The Blue Devils earned a little bit of revenge, after losing some close games to the Ravens on the football field in recent years.

Tallmadge rallied from a four-point deficit in the closing minutes to force overtime and then took control in the overtime by making free throw after free throw in the extra four minutes.

All told, the Blue Devils (6-14) made 25-of-31 foul shots, including 13-of-16 in the overtime period.

"I thought it wasn't our best defensive effort, but we had guys make plays when they had to," Tallmadge head coach Aaron Hinkle said. "Everyone who was on the floor made a positive play. The guys found a way."

Tallmadge led most of the way, before Ravenna (10-10) scratched and clawed its way to the lead in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens' 6-foot-6 senior forward, Jermaine Justice, took over in the fourth period.

Justice scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as Ravenna took a 63-59 lead with less than 90 seconds remaining.

However, the Blue Devils eventually tied the game at 64 with 10.8 seconds left when they beat the Ravens' trapping defense and guard Anthony Gotto found forward Damon Gidley for an uncontested layup.

Ravenna did not convert a couple of shots in the final seconds and the game went into overtime.

Tallmadge took the lead for good (70-68) when Gidley knocked down two free throws with 2:33 left in the extra session.

The Ravens had some costly turnovers down the stretch and the Blue Devils took advantage at the foul line.

"It was a tough loss," Ravenna head coach Phil Starks said. "We just have to practice a lot better on the defensive end, especially since it's the end of our season. We played in spurts and it was a game of runs, but we have to play for four quarters. Tallmadge hit free throws down the stretch and deserved to win."

Both teams had trouble stopping each other throughout the evening.

Each team attacked the rim at will, which led to a number of uncontested shots.

While the Blue Devils had some difficulty guarding Justice, the Ravens couldn't find an answer for Tallmadge 6-4 sophomore forward Andrew Francesconi, who finished with 23 points on mainly short jumpers off the dribble.

The Blue Devils, who have struggled to score points throughout the season, had plenty of offensive options this time.

A total of eight players scored for Tallmadge, including three other players in double figures. Gotto scored 15 points off the bench and Gidley and senior guard Bryon Cook added 13 and 10 points, respectively. Cook knocked down a huge 3-pointer with a little more than a minute left in the fourth quarter to cut Ravenna's lead to 63-62.

"Andrew, especially in the first three quarters, hit big shot after big shot," Hinkle said. "He kept us in the lead or he answered when they [the Ravens] hit a big shot. And Bryon hit that big 3. You can't say enough about him. He is shooting the ball a lot better and his 3-point efficiency is better."

Senior guard Josiah Coman finished with 13 points for Ravenna. A total of nine players scored at least two points for the Ravens.

But Starks wasn't in the mood to talk about offense. He is much more concerned about his team's issues on the defensive end.

"We have to make defense a priority," Starks said. "That's what's going to win games. I thought Kyle Spellman (7 points) played a good game, and I thought Josiah Coman played hard, but we need to get them all to play well together."

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