TALLMADGE — They were dominated, pushed around and out of position all night long when it came to crashing the glass.
However, the Lady Blue Devils got the most important rebound late in the game.
They also got something even sweeter.
That would be a victory on senior night.
The host Tallmadge girls basketball team earned a 49-46 win over Suburban League crossover rival Cuyahoga Falls Saturday evening at James O. Maddox Court.
It was the Lady Blue Devils’ second consecutive victory. Tallmadge improved to 11-10 overall, while the Lady Black Tigers dropped to 10-11.
With 17.8 seconds left, Tallmadge, leading 46-44, had a chance to make it a two-possession game at the free-throw line.
Junior guard Andreana Gotto made her first foul shot, but her second freebie went off the rim.
Fortunately for Gotto and the Lady Blue Devils, Alex Perrin came to the rescue.
The junior forward snuck inside, got the rebound and finished with a layup to give Tallmadge a 49-44 advantage.
"Alex made a basketball play," Lady Blue Devils head coach Collin Epstein said. "That was huge."
Despite not getting that crucial loose ball, Falls, which outrebounded Tallmadge 35-20, had a chance to tie the game on the final possession.
After the Lady Blue Devils missed two foul shots, the Lady Black Tigers got the rebound and called timeout with 1.5 showing on the clock.
Inbounding the ball from near midcourt, Falls got it to its leading scorer, guard Chelsea Huffman, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
Huffman got the ball, took a quick dribble and launched a 3-pointer from the right side. Unfortunately for Huffman, the ball hit the front of the rim as time expired.
"We didn’t take advantage of opportunities," Lady Black Tigers head coach Joe Nowak said. "We didn’t defend in key situations. We had some individual breakdowns that led to open jump shots and they knocked down their shots."
Tallmadge honored senior point guard Sara Johnson, who plans to continue her track and field careers at John Carroll University in University Heights. Falls’ seniors Leslie Sawyer, Kayla Huffman, Madison Davis and Hannah Merten also were recognized before the game.
When the game began, both teams had trouble getting some distance from the other.
The Lady Blue Devils led by as many as five (23-18) at halftime, but the Lady Black Tigers rallied to take a 39-35 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Tallmadge shot significantly better from the floor than Falls (19 of 38 compared to 17 of 61 for the Lady Black Tigers). But the Lady Blue Devils were no match for Falls on the boards.
"We got killed on the boards," Epstein said. "We also got outrebounded against Highland (a 34-33 victory Wednesday in Granger Township). But we battled through it and got two wins.
"They (the Lady Black Tigers) have height with 33 (Olivia Lemmon) and 42 (Merten). And the Huffmans can rebound the ball. They’re not small by any means."
As Nowak mentioned, Falls couldn’t make its shots against Tallmadge’s zone defense. However, since the Lady Blue Devils were having so much trouble getting to loose balls, they switched to a man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter.
Either way, the Lady Black Tigers couldn’t find their groove.
They also couldn’t find the net even when there were no defenders in sight. Falls made just 5 of 15 foul shots.
"Good teams will take advantage of that," Nowak said. "You can’t keep hurting yourself in so many situations throughout a game. You can’t expect things to turn out for you when that happens. Most of the time, you will come up short."
Chelsea Huffman knocked down five of the Lady Black Tigers’ seven 3-pointers. Her older sister Kayla added 11 points for Falls.
Sophomore guard Lizzie Bickar led Tallmadge with 14 points and Gotto contributed 11 points for the Lady Blue Devils, who got at least four points from seven players.
Tallmadge, which made just 6 of 13 free throws, has been through its share of peaks and valleys thus far. Nonetheless, the Lady Blue Devils may be onto something as the postseason draws near.
"I’m confident about our girls," Epstein said. "Our team chemistry is good. They are playing for each other. If we keep playing with the same energy we’ve shown the last two games, we can beat anyone out there."
Nowak also feels his team is on the right track as the regular season comes to a close. The Lady Black Tigers are seeking their second consecutive .500 or better season.
Such seasons had been severely lacking prior to their recent success.
"They are a great group," Nowak said. "The effort has been awesome since day one. It has been a great experience and they have enjoyed it as well. Our seniors have set the bar of what should be to come in the future."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.