MOGADORE — They feature many new faces.
But the Blue Devils still have their top gun.
And that top gun proved to be the difference.
Thanks to a game-high 36 points by 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward Brandon Heigelmann, the Tallmadge boys basketball team cruised to a 71-52 victory over host Field Wednesday at Ellen Arena in Mogadore.
Heigelmann relied mostly on penetrating to the basket to get the bulk of his points. He also knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and his pair of one-handed dunks in a span of a minute to put the game away in the third quarter.
Due to the graduation of some starting players, Heigelmann has gotten acquainted with people who are playing under the varsity lights for the first time.
"We have a bunch of new faces out there," Blue Devils head coach Bill Johnson said. "They’re trying to learn how to play around each other. That includes Brandon."
Danny Kurko added 10 points for Tallmadge (1-0), which built a 28-12 lead after one quarter of play.
"I think sometimes you’re going to have that in game one," Johnson said. "There was definitely some jitters early. We were able to get the lead in the first quarter. We were able to mix in some defenses and turn them over a little bit and get some easy scores, but then we kind of got a little overexcited."
As a result, the Blue Devils couldn’t hang onto the ball.
The Falcons (0-1) forced some turnovers in bunches in the second period and eventually cut Tallmadge’s advantage to six (38-32) late in the half.
Field also was able to get open shots as the Blue Devils appeared to be a step slow on defense.
"The 40 was great in the first half," Johnson said. "We can’t give up 32 and be successful. There were too many touch fouls, too many bad fouls that allowed them [the Falcons] to get to the free throw line and chip away at the lead. We really stressed at halftime: ‘We have to be better defensively.’"
Tallmadge outscored Field 19-11 in the third quarter and never looked back.
While Heigelmann was an unstoppable force, particularly off the dribble, the Blue Devils forced the Falcons to work for their shots. As a result, a number of shots had a high degree of difficulty. And more importantly, they found more iron than nylon.
"It was a much better performance," Johnson said. "I think we only committed three fouls until the last three minutes.
"We just needed to settle down a little bit. You think that would happen on the offensive end, but we just need to do it on the defensive end."
Junior forward Ethan Taylor added eight points for Tallmadge.
Senior guard Mason Campanelli led the Falcons with 10 points and junior guard Jacob Gartner added nine points for Field, which made the Blue Devils’ playmakers uncomfortable for much of the evening.
"Field does a good job of slowing the pace down because they get out and press you," Johnson said. "We tried to make a few adjustments at halftime and I thought we did a good job of being able to get it into people’s hands that we needed to get it into to get good offense."
Johnson knows his inexperienced team will be carried on the broad shoulders of his star player. Nevertheless, if Tallmadge wants to make another run to the district title game, it will need its new faces to become household names.
Johnson believes it’s only a matter of time.
"[Junior point guard] Nick Lambacher is coming off an ankle [injury]," Johnson said. "He has really only been practicing for about three days. He’s going to work his way back into that position. He does a great job of getting us into our offense and slowing the pace down. I thought [senior guard] Evan Teeling did a great job [Wednesday], as well."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.