TALLMADGE -- Their opponents weren't exactly pushovers, but the Blue Devils had been in a bit of a slump in recent weeks.
It's safe to say that slump is over.
In a blur, the Tallmadge boys basketball team suddenly looks like a formidable unit.
The Barberton Magics won't argue.
The host Blue Devils earned a convincing 71-52 victory over the Magics in Suburban League American Conference play at James O. Maddox Court.
Tallmadge, which also posted a 66-57 win over American Conference rival Highland Feb. 14 in Granger Township, moved the ball very effectively, hustled after loose balls, formed a rather menacing wall whenever Barberton attacked the rim and most importantly of all, drained shots from everywhere on the court.
The Blue Devils (11-7, 7-3) kept the ball moving, which led to a number of wide-open shots. And when those shots were available, Tallmadge did not hesitate to take them and of course, make them.
"I am really happy with our overall game," Blue Devils head coach Mike Bluey said. "We've had some ups and downs, but we've persevered. It was our best all-around game of the season."
For the Magics, such an offensive onslaught was all too familiar.
Three nights earlier, Barberton saw a talented Stow-Munroe Falls team bury shots all over Ohio in a commanding 78-60 loss.
The Bulldogs went on to knock down 15 3-pointers as the Magics often could only play the role of helpless bystanders.
Tallmadge may not have been quite as explosive as Stow was against Barberton, but the Blue Devils were pretty darn close.
Tallmadge knocked down 12 3-pointers and many of those shots came with shooters having their feet set and ready to fire. Such opportunities were frequent as the Blue Devils were able to draw Magics' defenders and then find open people.
"We've been saying this since day one: We have to defend as one and we have to share the ball," Bluey said. "We have guys who play within their roles. It's all about trusting your teammates."
Barberton led twice the entire game: 3-2 and 19-18.
When senior point guard Julius lee drained a 3-pointer off an assist from sophomore guard Sam Seeker, Tallmadge took the lead for good (21-19).
The Blue Devils had a 34-26 advantage at halftime and were up 48-40 after three quarters.
Tallmadge officially put the game out of reach with an 11-0 run in the fourth period.
There were assists on three of those field goals and the other was an acrobatic reverse layup by Seeker.
Junior forward Zach Boyd led the Blue Devils with 17 points. Junior guard Matthew Francesconi, who played the role of playmaker in the first half, had 15 points for Tallmadge. Francesconi's ability to attack the basket and draw defenders allowed him to get his teammates involved in the offense.
Francesconi had 6 assists in the first 16 minutes and four of them led to 3-pointers.
Junior guard Jake Rensel knocked down four 3-pointers on his way to 12 points and Lee finished with 8 points.
Junior forward Jordan Greynolds and sophomore guard Jordan Soyars each led the Magics with 15 points. Sophomore guard Maxwell Littlejohn and junior guard Zane Ries contributed 9 and 8 points, respectively.
All in all, it was a very strong performance by Tallmadge, which suffered double-digit losses to American Conference foe Copley and Green in its previous two games.
"I wasn't happy with our mental preparation in the Copley game," Bluey said. "Everybody, from the coaching staff to the players, had a bad night against Green. We went back to the gym and had some decent practices.
"The biggest difference maker has been consistency. We have battled with that all season. We struggled to pay attention to detail and our play reflected that."
First-year Barberton head coach Jack Greynolds Jr. was the Blue Devils' head coach when they had their most successful season in school history.
Tallmadge finished 25-1 during the 2000-01 season and reached a Division II regional title game.
The Magics earned a 55-37 victory in the junior varsity contest. Sophomore Sean Ambrose led the Blue Devils with 13 points and sophomore Jason Grassie had 9 points for Tallmadge.
Against the Hornets, Francesconi led the way with 23 points. Senior guard Josh Taylor made four 3-pointers on his way to 12 points.
Senior guard Julius Lee and Rensel also knocked down two triples apiece. Lee finished with 7 rebounds. Highland earned a 62-42 win in the JV contest.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to visit American Conference rival Revere Feb. 17 in Bath Township. Results were not available at press time.
Tallmadge is set to entertain Akron Buchtel Feb. 21 and American Conference foe Aurora Feb. 24. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils received the sixth seed at the Canton Division II sectional-district tournament. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary got the top seed and Buchtel, Alliance and Akron Coventry earned the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.
Tallmadge has a first-round bye. The Blue Devils are set to play the Buchtel-Canal Fulton Northwest winner in a sectional title game March 3 at 7 p.m. If Northwest wins, the game will take place at James O. Maddox Court. If Buchtel wins, the game will take place in Akron.