TALLMADGE — They’ve had their peaks and valleys.
As a result, the Blue Devils have experienced an uneven season thus far.
Nonetheless, first-year Tallmadge head boys basketball coach Bill Johnson will not stray away from his hardcore beliefs regarding his players’ abilities.
"We harp on it and we harp on it, but we are really good as a team," Johnson said.
Of course, there is a catch to the Blue Devils’ head man’s insistent credence.
"When we play as a team," Johnson added.
On Friday, Tallmadge showed how formidable it can be when it plays as one supercharged unit.
The Blue Devils also showed how vulnerable they can be if they wander too far away from the pack.
As it turned out, the former outweighed the latter when it mattered most.
And that led to an enjoyable victory for Tallmadge on senior night.
The host Blue Devils improved to 9-9 overall and 6-4 in the Suburban League American Conference after earning a 91-76 win over Barberton Friday at James O. Maddox Court.
Tallmadge’s high-powered machine had some technical difficulties in the opening 16 minutes.
The ball appeared to travel in one direction and it seemed like it was glued onto one player’s fingertips on numerous possessions.
Such a troubling display of execution, or lack thereof, was a worrisome sign for the up and down Blue Devils.
Perhaps the players weren’t sold on sharing the wealth. If that was the case, a revolt against their coach seemed inevitable, right?
Fortunately for Johnson, everything was just groovy.
"I’ll go forever with this team and say we’re not an unselfish team … at all," he said. "It’s about thinking they can do something instead of taking the open play."
Tallmadge did not hesitate when it came to attacking the rim in the first half.
And that was the root of all evil for the Blue Devils.
They tried to force their way toward the basket even it if was heavily guarded by purple jerseys.
The Magics swooped on these overaggressive habits and went into halftime with quite a fews bounces in their step as they led 40-32.
So did these rebellious acts against the game plan lead to anarchy in the home team’s locker room?
Not in the least.
"When we came in at halftime, the kids were calm," Johnson said. "I had a good vibe about it."
The good vibes promptly led to good execution. And to the coach’s delight, Tallmadge returned to its sum-is-greater-than-the-parts’ principles.
As a result, Barberton could only watch helplessly when the action resumed.
The Blue Devils racked up assist after assist to score 26 points in the third quarter to take a 58-54 lead.
They tacked on another 33 in the final eight minutes to dismiss the shell-shocked Magics in a rather impertinent fashion.
"The floodgates opened in the second half," Johnson said.
Tallmadge didn’t miss a whole lot of shots in the final two quarters. The stellar shooting percentage didn’t leave much of an impression on Johnson, though.
The Blue Devils earned their coach’s stamp of approval by finishing possessions in the precise ways they’ve practiced over and over again.
"We talked at halftime about shooting and shots getting contagious," Johnson said. "It was more about getting the best shot every possession."
When all five players were engaged, Tallmadge could not be stopped. And this demonstration of unity is exactly what Johnson envisioned when he met his players during the first day of practice.
If the Blue Devils can continue this team-oriented process of lather, rinse, repeat, their head coach firmly believes very special moments await them in the coming weeks.
"I think we frustrated them a little bit," Johnson said. "We kept adding to the lead, adding to the lead. I think that really is a testament to our kids in terms of understanding how good each other is and playing as a team."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.