TALLMADGE — It’s a phrase not too many coaches enjoy hearing when the games end.
For the members of the Tallmadge girls basketball team, that phrase has lingered with them wherever they’ve gone this winter.
"We’ve had a lot of moral victories," Blue Devils head coach Collin Epstein said.
Chalk up another one Wednesday night. Unfortunately, another moral victory came courtesy of a loss for the school on North Munroe Road.
Host Tallmadge concluded its regular season with a 49-46 loss to Suburban League American Conference rival Revere at James O. Maddox Court.
With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 7-14 overall. They finished 4-8 in the rugged American Conference.
The Minutemen, who also earned a 63-60 win over Tallmadge in an eerily similar game last month, improved to 15-7 overall and finished 8-4 in the American Conference.
Like the last game, the Blue Devils found themselves facing a rather substantial deficit.
Like the last game, Tallmadge made a furious comeback in the final minutes.
Alas, like the last game, the Blue Devils fell agonizingly short of pulling off an upset.
"Give Tallmadge a lot of credit," Revere first-year head coach Dan Brown said. "That’s the second time they’ve done that to us. They keep battling; they keep coming back."
The Blue Devils, thanks to some turnovers in bunches, ineffectiveness on the glass and woeful shooting from the outside, trailed 30-17 at halftime to the taller Minutemen.
Revere had a 19-3 edge in the first half on the boards and finished with a commanding 28-11 advantage in rebounding.
Still, though, the Minutemen couldn’t swipe away the pesky Blue Devils as they relentlessly kept biting the Revere players’ ankles. In fact, Tallmadge went on an impressive 15-2 run to take an improbable 46-45 lead when junior guard Lizzie Bickar converted two free throws with about 30 seconds left.
But that’s when things went downhill for the hard-luck Blue Devils.
Senior Taylor Rinn, who torched Tallmadge for 29 points during last month’s showdown, got fouled on the next possession and had a one-and-one opportunity.
Rinn made her first attempt, but the second shot found iron.
However, the ball eluded the Blue Devils and went right into the hands of senior forward Grace Hete, who calmly grabbed the loose ball and then put it back up and in to give the Minutemen a 48-46 advantage with about 10 seconds remaining.
Tallmadge turned it over on the next possession and Revere added a foul shot with 1.8 ticks left to seal the deal.
"We started to get some stops in the fourth quarter," Epstein said, "We got out and ran a little bit, so that was nice to see. (Junior guard) Jordyn (Severns) made some shots; Lizzie finished some tough shots at the hoop; (senior guard Andreana) Gotto made a couple of layups."
Despite a rough start, Bickar finished with a game-high 19 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Severns added 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and Gotto, who was honored on senior night before the game, contributed eight points and the yeoman’s share of assists.
"Bickar had a phenomenal game," Brown said. "She got everybody involved at the end and that’s what good guards do.
"Our goal was to take away 20 (Severns) and take away Gotto from driving. Gotto drove a lot on us the first time."
Rinn scored 17 points and Hete added 15 points for the Minutemen, who made just 11 of 20 shots from the charity stripe.
"I just thought we had to get a stop," Epstein said.
Revere was dealt a severe blow when one of its senior captains fell to the floor in agony.
Forward Jess Vari, a starter, injured her ankle with a little less than five minutes remaining in the game.
"She has a twisted ankle," Brown said. "She’s going to be out for at least a week or two.
"Emotionally, I think it took a little bit to get back into it. Lucky enough for us, we got back into it with about 20 seconds left."
The Blue Devils have been very competitive in a number of games this season. But competitiveness alone hasn’t added up to a large number of wins.
Wednesday was a perfect example of what the winter has been like for the snakebitten Tallmadge players thus far.
"It seemed like we’d get five seconds off the clock and they would call timeout," Epstein said. "We gave up a layup on a direct cut to the hoop and then an offensive board and it didn’t go our way from there."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.