TALLMADGE — It has a tendency to make them more vulnerable on defense.

It can lead to a number of balls heading toward the spectators or worse yet, in their opponents’ hands.

But first-year Tallmadge head boys basketball coach Bill Johnson isn’t going to apologize for the way his players perform their duties on various 50-foot courts.

Whether their critics like it or not, the Blue Devils will play at three speeds this winter.

Fast, faster and fastest.

"We have to play this way," Johnson said. "This is how our team is built: to get up and down. We’re athletic; we can run; we can do a lot of things in transition."

Tallmadge certainly did all of those things Tuesday night in its home opener.

However, the Blue Devils failed to meet one absolutely critical requirement time and time again.

They couldn’t stop their opponents.

Host Tallmadge dropped to 0-2 after losing to Akron Ellet 88-70 at James O. Maddox Court.

The Blue Devils’ high-octane, high-speed and sometimes, chaotic offense turned up the jets and worried about crashing later.

For awhile, that frenetic but entertaining style of play was breathtaking artistry and aesthetically pleasing to the home fans.

Tallmadge scored 27 points and committed just two turnovers in the first eight minutes.

Unfortunately, the high-flying act that wooed the crowd switched to long stretches of sloppy possessions and late rotations on the defensive end.

As a result, the Orangemen pounced on the Blue Devils’ glaring weaknesses and forced the momentum to change 180 degrees in a heartbeat.

Ellet, despite missing its share of open shots, including several from point-blank range, outscored Tallmadge 23-11 in the second quarter to take a 44-38 halftime lead.

"To be able to play this way, we have to defend consistently," Johnson said. "It’s not just defending the ball or defending on the help side. It’s completing possessions. We have to finish possessions."

The Blue Devils continued to put the pedal to the metal when they returned from the locker room.

Once again, they caught the Orangemen off-guard.

Tallmadge opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run that ended with a Nick Hussing bucket after Brandon Heigelmann found him with a bounce pass on a backdoor cut.

That deuce gave the Blue Devils a 47-46 lead. Alas, that well-executed play turned out to be Tallmadge’s last advantage of the evening.

Ellet, which showed good ball movement the entire way, neutralized the Blue Devils’ supercharged tempo with expert thievery.

The Orangemen stepped in front of passing lanes to get steals and showed they could push the pace to dangerous levels as well.

Ellet went on a 15-3 run in a little more than four minutes to build its lead to double digits (61-50).

The Orangemen (1-1), who got quite comfortable with Tallmadge’s attempt to turn every possession into the 100-meter dash, didn’t miss a beat the rest of the way.

"We have to be tougher for us to be successful," Johnson said. "We want to go out and run. But for us to be successful, we have to get stops. We have to do a better job all around defensively."

If your offense is clicking and you’re thwarting your opponents’ goals of turning a game into a mad Black Friday rush, everyone will eat.

Ellet enjoyed such an exorbitant feast at the dinner table as five Orangemen reached double figures in scoring.

Junior point guard Trevin Carter sunk his teeth in many of the delicacies with a game-high 26 points, including 14 in the all-important second period.

He also racked up his share of assists and was able to get a number of his baskets by using his quickness to beat the Blue Devils off the dribble for layups.

Carter got to share the lavish servings of this unexpected but joyous banquet away from home with quite a few of his friends.

Senior forward Anthony Jordan finished with 16 points and senior guard Storm Cherry and junior guard Jesse Nance each had 14 points for the Orangemen.

Senior forward Jarmond Hogg added 12 points off the bench for Ellet.

A major reason for Tallmadge’s second-quarter woes was its inability to control its anxious and extremely impatient hands.

The Blue Devils had four players, including three starters, get whistled for their second fouls in the first 16 minutes.

Hussing, who was forced to the bench early with a pair of first-period infractions, led Tallmadge with 22 points.

The two-sport star, who scored more than 50 career goals for the Blue Devils’ soccer team, had his second consecutive strong offensive outburst. He scored a game-high 28 points in a 69-66 loss to Woodridge Saturday in Akron.

Hussing, a senior guard, has been following the lead of his enthusiastic first-year coach.

With Johnson at the helm, the days of players putting their heads down, sulking, bickering with each other and having low energy on game days and practices have been banned from the locker room.

"Nick Hussing has done a great job for us," Johnson said. "On the bench, he’s constantly positive. He’s trying to pick kids up. We’re trying to build that as we go."

Heigelmann, a 6-4 junior guard, finished with 21 points, including a one-handed, posterizing tomahawk dunk over an unfortunate Orangeman player in the first half. Senior point guard Sam Seeker, a regular in the starting lineup last season, contributed 12 points.

Hussing, Heigelmann and Seeker enjoyed the splendor of competing under the bright lights last winter. The rest of the Tallmadge troupe, on the other hand, is learning the thrilling, but also intimidating and even cruel lessons of varsity ball for the first time ever.

"They’re learning how hard you have to play, how physical you have to play and how mentally tough you have to play," Johnson said. "They’re learning as they go and that’s OK. It’s going to be a process."

That process is happening quickly. And this exercise in varsity basketball 101 will require a major examination period that doesn’t favor the procrastinators.

After all, conference play is right around the corner. If the Blue Devils want to have a say in who will rule the Suburban League American throne, their opponents won’t, appropriately enough, let their feet off the gas during Tallmadge’s heavy-duty and short-lived trial-and-error period.

"This is a great test for us," Johnson said. "We have to handle some adversity now. We had a great preseason and now we have two losses when it matters."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.