TALLMADGE — The scoreboards seemed to have minds of their own Friday evening at James O. Maddox Court.
Due to these, perhaps, otherworldly manifestations, both scoreboards had major malfunctions in the first half.
Those technological demons were exorcised once the two teams returned from their locker rooms.
Appropriately enough, a team called the Blue Devils tormented another team called the Magics once order was restored.
The Tallmadge boys basketball team put on a majestic offensive clinic after halftime en route to a 91-76 victory over Barberton.
With the win, the Blue Devils, who lost to the Magics 60-57 in December, improved to 9-9 overall and 6-4 in the Suburban League American Conference. Barberton dropped to 5-12 overall and 3-7 in the conference.
As the scoreboards flashed on and off and showed peculiar looking characters that looked more like the Kanji alphabet of the Far East, Tallmadge had some problems finding its groove.
The Blue Devils, who played their eight seniors throughout the first quarter, felt they had matchup advantages in the early stages of the game and decided to attack the basket regularly.
However, those aggressive raids into the paint did more harm than good.
The Magics were able to pick a few Tallmadge pockets or grab balls off the glass as the Blue Devils fired away recklessly despite encountering much resistance.
Barberton, on the other hand, lit the baskets on fire in the first 16 minutes.
Thanks to the relentless drives by senior guard Jordan Soyars and the sweet shooting stroke of senior backcourt mate Maxwell Littlejohn, the Magics led 40-32 at halftime.
Soyars, who had his way most of the night despite facing heavy traffic, scored 13 of his team-high 28 points in the first two quarters.
"He is a really good player," Tallmadge first-year head coach Bill Johnson said of Soyars. "He has the raise-up jump shot; he can get all the way to the hoop. We wanted four arms on him at all times."
The heavy-duty attention on its alpha male allowed Barberton to spread the floor. Using a pace-and-space approach, the Magics unleashed Littlejohn, who knocked down four first-half three-pointers, including a couple from NBA range.
"There was a lot of adversity in that first half," Johnson said. "Littlejohn made three 3s and two of them were contested. The clock is running all over the place and a different lineup is in. We had to go through some things."
It could have been worse for the Blue Devils if not for the efforts of 6-foot-3 senior guard Jake Gardella, who scored eight of his 17 points in the first half and provided so many intangibles that can’t be quantified by conventional statistics.
"I thought Jake was phenomenal in the first half," Johnson said. "He made a couple of threes; he rebounded; he defended really well. I thought he was the one who really kept us to eight in that first half."
Other than the players’ numbers, points and fouls, the rest of the scoreboards’ components worked properly after halftime.
Meanwhile, all of Tallmadge’s components worked properly once they came back to the floor.
The Blue Devils scored 59 points in the final 16 minutes to top the 90-point total for the first time this season.
Once again, the rock of Tallmadge’s church was Brandon Heigelmann.
The 6-4 junior guard/forward was just about unguardable throughout the evening due to his stellar outside shooting and his neverending forays to the hoop.
The only way the Magics, who did not have a player taller than 6-3, could stop the gifted Heigelmann from getting to the rim was through physical contact.
In the long run, though, that didn’t work either.
Heigelmann, who scored a game-high 32 points, converted all 11 of his free throw attempts.
He was particularly lethal as the Blue Devils’ closer.
Heigelmann scored half of his points in the fourth period, which included seven freebies. Thanks to this vicious assault by the indomitable Tallmadge junior, Barberton, which trailed by just four (58-54) heading into the final quarter, had no choice but to surrender before the buzzer sounded.
"There are times when he takes shots and I’m like, ‘OK,’" Johnson said of Heigelmann. "I take a deep breath just because I don’t have a rope on him. I don’t have a leash on anybody."
Johnson’s players seemed to enjoy their lack of shackles.
Senior guard Nick Hussing finished with 15 points and senior guard Sean Ambrose added 10 points for Tallmadge, which had eight players reach the scoring column.
"Sean made two huge 3s," Johnson said. "When we can spread out the floor and put two guys in the corners that can make 3s, our guys that penetrate are really hard to guard.
"You have to make a choice. Are you going to guard penetrating in the middle? Or are you going to give up the 3? We’ve gotten so much better at how do I get it to the guy who’s open."
The Magics had their souls crushed on the boards as well.
The Blue Devils had a 33-19 advantage on the glass, including a substantial 12-3 edge when the game did a 180-degree turn in the third period.
"We rebounded the ball," Johnson said. "(Junior post player) Danny (Kurko) and Brandon just went up and collected rebounds. We were able to get out and run and Nick and (senior point guard) Sammy (Seeker) are able to finish strong at the hoop, along with Brandon."
The scoreboard voodoo may have been a bit eerie for the fans who packed the gymnasium on Tallmadge’s senior night.
Fortunately for Johnson, these "devils" who are partial to the color blue, have no intentions of playing a similar role of that other infamous wretch, who is often referred to as "The Great Deceiver."
"In practice, we coach them up," Johnson said. "We say, ‘Here’s what’s good; here’s what’s bad.’ In games, I think it’s more important to let them feel it out. I trust them. They trust me to let them trust them."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.