TALLMADGE — Built in 1959, the old Tallmadge High School hosted its final basketball game Friday night, inspiring the host Blue Devils to their fourth straight win of the season.
Jumping out to a 13-point cushion after the opening eight minutes, Tallmadge bid adieu to what is now the district's middle school court with a convincing 64-45 Suburban League American Conference victory over Kent Roosevelt.
With both squads wearing throwback jerseys circa the 1960s, the Blue Devils (8-8, 5-3) broke away from a 6-4 lead with a tone-setting 14 unanswered points to go up 20-4 with a little less than a minute to play in the first quarter.
"I thought we came out with great energy and, boy, what an awesome atmosphere," said Blue Devils coach Bill Johnson, who played in this very same gym while as a player at Cuyahoga Falls. "Our kids were so built up for this because they were so excited to play on the same home floor of so many great Tallmadge players that have played here in the past. I think they kind of wanted to put on a great show for everybody out here, because they were closing the court.
"With that, comes a legacy. I told them before the game, your legacy isn't on this court because you haven't played here. But your legacy will be closing this court, so do it proud. I really believe they did it proud (Friday). It's just a special place and we really wanted to close it out right."
The Blue Devils finished the opening period ahead 22-9. The game was very similar to the first meeting between the teams, which saw Tallmadge race out to an 18-6 lead en route to a 65-40 win in mid-December.
"One of the things that we do really well is our length defensively, really causing some problems," Johnson said. "One of the things that (Roosevelt) is really good at, that we really focused on, was their ability to get off the dribble and pull up and shoot it and get to the basket.
"Our goal was to be as long as we could and prevent some of those things that they do really well. I think that sparked us. Once we got stops, we were able to get out in transition and get easy scores. We're at our best when we get out in transition, obviously."
Junior Brandon Heigelmann had eight points in the quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Blue Devils a double-digit lead.
Three of Heigelmann's teammates, Nick Hussing, Sam Seeker, Jake Gardella, also reached double digits in scoring, posting 14, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
"I really thought our starters were fantastic, all the way around," said Johnson of the aforementioned four, along with 6-foot-5 Danny Kurko, who protected the paint.
"(Kurko) does such a good job. He doesn't get enough credit for what he does defensively. We ask him to switch screens and guard every guard and he does it without hesitation and does a really good job."
The Rough Riders’ best quarter took place in the second period when they outscored Tallmadge 13-11 and carved its early 16-point hole to nine points three separate times before going to the half down 33-22.
Zachary Common, the Roosevelt’s top point-producer with 15, drove to the hoop for a layup two minutes into the second half to make it a 10-point game, but the Blue Devils replied with a 10-2 burst to boost the lead back up to 16.
Raheem Howard complemented Common with 12 points, but that wasn't nearly enough for the Rough Riders (4-13, 0-9).