A sluggish first half turned into a second-half rout as the Tallmadge girls basketball team opened the season with a 48-30 victory last Saturday against Suburban League crossover rival North Royalton at James O. Maddox Court.

On Tuesday, the Blue Devils lost to Akron Manchester 50-43 in Akron.

In its win over the Bears, Tallmadge led 11-9 after one quarter and 23-22 at halftime before expanding its advantage to 39-28 after three quarters.

"We had a lot of turnovers in the first half and we just weren’t shooting the ball very well," Tallmadge first-year head coach Brett Bickar said. "We just played better in the second half. The team was sharing the ball and getting looks.

"Our defense was much better in the second half too. We played much better team defense. We were able to get some steals and some runouts. That was part of the big difference."

Leading the way for the Blue Devils was senior guard Lizzie Bickar, who had 17 points, including two 3-pointers, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

"Lizzie just played a really good game on both ends of the floor," Coach Bickar said.

Senior forward Jill Catalano scored 10 points.

"Jill was in foul trouble in the first half," Coach Bickar said. "She sat most of that half with three fouls, but she was a big contributor to the way we played in the second half. She’s one of the best defenders on the team. It just elevates everybody else."

Senior guard Rae’lya Sibley scored six points, including a three-pointer. With five points apiece were sophomore forward Savannah Allebach and freshman guard/forwards Maya Dexter and Natalie Ries.

In the loss to the Panthers, Tallmadge trailed 14-6 after the first quarter and 27-13 at the half before recovering in the second half. The Blue Devils were down 33-25 after three quarters and then made a run late in the fourth quarter.

"We were sluggish in the first half," Coach Bickar said. "We shot 16 percent from the floor that half. We had some good looks, but we just couldn’t throw anything in. Nothing would fall for us.

"We got to within three points with about two and a half minutes left in the game with the ball. We had some opportunities down three or four points a couple possessions in a row, but we just didn’t convert. Then Manchester made a couple foul shots down the stretch to put it away.

"It was a very fast-paced game for the whole team. It was a much quicker team we played. Athletically, they were really good, so it took us a while to adjust to the speed of the game.

"Even after our bad start, we gave ourselves an opportunity to win. We got back in it. It was a good game for the girls to learn how to finish games. It was a great environment to play a game with that small gym. It was loud."

Lizzie Bickar led Tallmadge with 22 points.

"Lizzie just battled," Coach Bickar said. "She had some good plays, some bad plays. She just grinds out the whole game."

Ries scored eight points.

"Natalie hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter when we were making our run to give us a chance," Coach Bickar said. "She just kept battling."