TALLMADGE — When she saw her senior captain struggle with her shot, Natalie Ries made a statement to her teammates on the bench.
Let’s just say it was rather terse.
“The bench wasn’t bringing the energy up and weren’t cheering her on,” the freshman guard/forward said.
The mood changed quite considerably not long after Ries made her impassioned plea. It’s a safe bet she received quite a few cheers too.
Thanks to Ries’ career-high 17 points, the host Tallmadge girls basketball team earned a 49-42 victory over Ravenna Saturday at James O. Maddox Court.
Ries knocked down four 3-pointers, including three triples in the third quarter. The Blue Devils outscored the Ravens 18-9 in the period.
“Natalie Ries hit some shots,” Bickar said. “She had her best shooting day of the season. It was a good day for it.”
Ries’ performance was particularly pleasing since her more accomplished teammate had an off-day.
Senior point guard Lizzie Bickar, who leads the team in just about every statistical category, missed 13 of her 18 shot attempts.
That wasn’t an issue for Ries, though. The precocious freshman gladly picked up the slack.
“I was really excited,” Ries said. “I just kept shooting 3s and that’s what really got me the points.”
Ries could certainly appreciate her talented teammate’s unexpected funk. Since she makes her living from the perimeter, Ries knows full well how fickle the sport can be to 3-point specialists.
That certainly was the case for Ries and Co. the previous two games.
Prior to Saturday, Tallmadge’s offense sputtered in losses to Austintown-Fitch and Louisville. And like many of her teammates, Ries found herself in a dreaded shooting slump.
“After I kept missing, I was upset,” she said. “That kind of clogged my game up a little bit, but this game, I kept that mentality the whole time. That was a big part of it.”
Of course, make or miss, a shooter must follow a simple mentality at all times: keep shooting.
Ries did just that against the injury-riddled Ravens and just like that, the good times returned to North Munroe Road.
It wasn’t just shooting either. The Blue Devils also discovered the benefits of sharing the wealth as they resurrected their once woeful offense.
“We played together as a team,” Ries said. “We passed the ball to each other and worked together as one, which we really didn’t do in the past.”
Ries is one of two freshmen in Tallmadge’s starting lineup. The other first-year phenom is guard/forward Maya Dexter, who has been Ries’ teammate since they first played together in first grade.
“We’ve talked about how we have to step it up because we’re the only freshmen,” Ries said.
Don’t allow yourself to question Ries’ leadership abilities despite her young age. When this fearless teenager talks, people tend to listen. Just ask her teammates on the bench.
“People don’t realize the energy we bring to other people,” Ries said. “It really helps the game.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.