STREETSBORO — In a word, it was, well, not good.
Actually, it was quite poor.
Inferior might work too.
Or second-rate, substandard and maybe even downright lousy.
Yes, it was that kind of first half for the Tallmadge girls basketball team.
Of course, when the players’ massive struggles were brought to the attention of Brett Bickar, the first-year head coach was surprisingly in denial.
Actually, that wasn’t necessarily true — at all.
"You’re telling me," Bickar said with a wide grin.
In the end, though, Bickar didn’t need a ray of sunshine for the delightful twinkle in his eye.
His Blue Devils continue to exceed expectations, including his own.
Tallmadge improved to 11-8 on the season after earning a 52-41 victory over host Streetsboro Saturday.
The Blue Devils committed 13 turnovers in the first two quarters and had many moments where they looked discombobulated when they had the ball.
Thus, the Rockets, who were just as shaky with nine first-half turnovers of their own, took a 21-19 lead.
Time to hit the panic button? Nah, mess happens, right?
That would be a resounding yes from a certain individual who happens to pledge his allegiance to blue and gold colors.
"It’s not like we dug ourselves a big hole," Bickar said. "We were just doing some things in the first half that were uncharacteristic.
"It was bad decision after bad decision. We were beating ourselves and we just said, ‘If we clean this up, we can take care of this like we thought we should have.’ "
They did indeed.
Tallmadge moved the ball effectively and knocked down several open jumpers when its still very confident players returned to the locker room.
An 8-1 run midway through the third quarter gave the Blue Devils (11-8) the lead (35-27) for good.
Streetsboro, on the other hand, had its share of difficulties in the second half. The Rockets missed nine of their 12 shot attempts and scored just six points in the final eight minutes.
As usual, Lizzie Bickar set the tone.
The senior point guard scored a game-high 24 points and also played a role in several other Blue Devil points, thanks to her accurate passing.
Of course, this has been the norm for the gifted teenager throughout the season. Heck, you could argue it has been the norm throughout her career.
Since it’s so common, Lizzie Bickar’s excellence may be a tad bit underappreciated.
Ironically, these multitude of shoulder shrugs include someone very close to her.
The elder Bickar, like just about everyone else, admittedly pleads guilty to the charge of apathy when it comes to his often dazzling playmaker.
"She was excellent [Saturday]," Brett Bickar said. "Every game is like that. I take her for granted. We all do. We just expect that, so if it’s not that, it’s like she almost had a bad game.
"She has been working really hard lately to get her shooting back. She has been a little bit off, especially from the outside for the last week and a half or so. We’ve been doing a little bit of extra shooting and stuff like that and [Saturday], it paid off."
Sweet-shooting freshman guard Natalie Ries added 11 points, including three 3-pointers, for Tallmadge. Ries knocked down a pair of triples early in the third period to provide a much needed spark to her team’s somewhat stagnant offense.
"When she hits 3s, it really energizes our team," Coach Bickar said. "That’s what she does. That’s why she’s on the court because she’s one of our best shooters on the team.
"If she’s hitting them, that just opens up everything for [freshman guard] Maya [Dexter], Lizzie and [senior forward] Jill [Catalano] to drive to the basket. When she’s on, we’re definitely an all-around team."
Breannda Davis scored a team-high 19 points for the Rockets (9-11) mainly on nifty finishes off drives to the basket. No other Streetsboro player scored more than eight points.
The Blue Devils, who recently earned the sixth seed at the Uniontown Division II sectional-district tournament, have continued their rise after a somewhat shaky start. In Tallmadge’s defense, it had several younger players getting their feet wet on the highest level.
These days, the Blue Devils’ plethora of youths, along with their elder statesmen, seem to be putting things together quite nicely as the postseason tournament draws near.
"Going into the year, we were really unsure of how everything was going to pan out," Coach Bickar said. "The girls have just really accepted their roles of what we’re good at and what we’re not good at. We just try to focus on the things that we do well and it’s panned out 11 times so far."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.