TALLMADGE — Considering it only had one returning starter back from a quality squad last season, it was inevitable that the Tallmadge girls basketball team would have some growing pains.
That certainly was the case for the Lady Blue Devils in their 2017-18 debut.
Nonetheless, they appear to be growing faster than anyone expected.
Host Tallmadge suffered a tough 50-48 defeat to Ravenna Wednesday night at James O. Maddox Court.
The Lady Ravens, who did not win a single non-conference game last season, improved to 1-1.
Ravenna led much of the way and was up by as many as 15 (30-15) late in the first half.
But the Lady Blue Devils roared back and made things very interesting in the final seconds.
In fact, Tallmadge got a turnover in the final seconds and had a fast break. However, the Lady Blue Devils missed a layup and then could not get a clean shot on their final possession with .2 left.
"Give Tallmadge credit," Lady Ravens head coach Sonny Tilden said. "They battled back and never gave up."
When junior guard Kaitlyn Rogers converted both ends of a one and one, Ravenna had a 49-40 lead with a little more than a minute left.
But the Lady Blue Devils scored the next six points and turned agony into jubilation in a matter of seconds.
Trailing 49-42, Tallmadge missed three straight free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot attempt.
But sophomore guard Jordyn Severns came out of nowhere to grab the offensive rebound on the third miss and score a layup to make it 49-44.
In a heartbeat, the Lady Blue Devils turned it into a one-possession game.
Senior guard Andreana Gotto stole the inbounds pass and scored a layup to make it 49-46 with about 35 seconds left.
The Lady Ravens made it a two-possession game (50-46) when Rogers sank 1 of 2 free throws on the next trip down the floor.
However, Tallmadge quickly answered when Gotto scored off the dribble with approximately 10 seconds left.
"I was proud of how hard we played in the seond half," Lady Blue Devils head coach Collin Epstein said. "What we did in the second half is what we need to do for four quarters."
Prior to the late-game theatrics by Tallmadge, Ravenna was in control much of the way.
After a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Avery Robinson, the Lady Ravens were sitting pretty with a 27-12 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
"I think they came out a little nervous," Epstein said. "A lot of our girls haven't played on the varsity level. We had a lot of good looks in the first half."
The Lady Blue Devils chipped into Ravenna's advantage in the early stages of the third quarter.
When sophomore guard Lizzie Bickar made 1 of 2 free throws, the Lady Ravens' advantage was just five (30-25).
Nonetheless, Ravenna always seemed to have an answer whenever Tallmadge got close.
The lead was back up to 10 (37-27) later in the period after a 3-pointer by Robinson and a layup by 6-foot-1 junior forward Lauren Calhoun, who finished with game highs in points (17) and rebounds (14).
"She controlled the boards," Tilden said of Calhoun. "Lauren hit some tough shots with two defenders on her."
The Lady Blue Devils, on the other hand, struggled mightily in the paint. Tallmadge certainly didn't have the height advantage. However, Tallmadge also missed uncontested shots from point-blank range.
"We missed a lot of shots that we're within a foot," Epstein said. "It might not come down to one layup, but over time, if you miss 10 to 15 of those, they start to build up."
Robinson had 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Rogers made two buckets from 3-point range and had 11 points.
Bickar led the Lady Blue Devils, who lost the ball just 9 times, with 17 points and Severns added 14 points.
Ravenna had a 36-15 edge on the glass. Nonetheless, the Lady Ravens, who made nine 3-pointers, also had 25 turnovers, including nine in the third quarter.
While Epstein liked the effort from his team, he feels his players need to be much more prepared prior to game nights.
"We need to get better in practice," Epstein said. "We saw some good things. We handled the ball well. We didn't turn the ball over as much as we thought, but we can definitely improve."
Tallmadge is scheduled to make its 2017-18 Suburban League American Conference debut when it entertains Aurora Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Lady Blue Devils are set to visit Buchtel Dec. 6 in Akron. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
They are set to visit Kent to play conference rival Theodore Roosevelt Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m.