After a slow start, including a cold-shooting first quarter, the Tallmadge girls basketball team took control in the second quarter and cruised to a 54-39 victory over Akron Springfield last Saturday.

The game was part of the Wishes Can Happen Holiday Classic at Canton GlenOak.

The Blue Devils improved to 7-4 on the season.

Tallmadge trailed 11-9 after one quarter, but then forged ahead 25-16 at halftime. It then increased its lead to 37-23 after three quarters.

"We were moving the ball really well and had a lot of open looks in the first quarter, but we just didn’t get any shots to fall," Blue Devils head coach Brett Bickar said. "Then, in the second quarter, we started to make a couple shots and our defense was able to get set and played pretty well the rest of the way.

"Lately, our defensive rotations have just been getting better and better. We’re getting a lot of transition stuff just from playing good defense."

Leading the way for Tallmadge was senior guard Lizzie Bickar, who scored 17 points. She also had seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.

"It was another good overall game for Lizzie," Coach Bickar said. "She had some good open looks early but didn’t connect on them. Then she found her rhythm starting in the second quarter. Her rebounding got us into transition as quickly as possible and she made some really nice passes to get some other girls baskets."

Senior forward Jill Catalano scored nine points and added 11 rebounds, while sophomore forward Savannah Allebach had seven points and six rebounds for the Blue Devils.

"It was just a great overall performance by Jill," Coach Bickar said. "Her shoulder is finally getting healthy. It’s not 100 percent yet, but she’s getting there. You can just see that every day in practice and in every game she’s getting back to where she was at the beginning of the season. She’s invaluable on both ends of the floor for us.

"Savannah played one of her best games of the season. Her activity level was great on defense. She was moving, contesting shots and going after rebounds. She put herself in position to get a couple passes, score a couple baskets and make some foul shots. She played a really good game."

Freshman guard/forward Maya Dexter had eight rebounds and three steals.

"Maya’s activity level has picked up over the last few weeks," Coach Bickar said. "She’s getting more and more comfortable. I expect to see more improvement as the season goes on."

According to Coach Bickar, his team is in a good spot now.

"Everybody is continuing to improve," he said. "The team chemistry is getting better every game as far as the ball movement, passing and the girls wanting to work with each other and make each other better, which is what it’s all about for us."