TALLMADGE — It won’t be long when the Tallmadge and Cuyahoga Falls girls basketball teams play each other twice during the winter.
If the outcome is anything like last Saturday, the Blue Devils certainly won’t mind.
Not at all, as a matter of fact.
Host Tallmadge cruised to a 46-31 victory over Cuyahoga Falls at James O. Maddox Court. The Black Tigers, who make their home in the bigger-school Suburban League National Conference, will switch to the smaller-school American Conference when the fall season begins in 2021.
Such a move might be a delightful one for Falls, which has enjoyed much success in recent years.
That success included its rugged National Conference schedule.
On Saturday, the Black Tigers got a taste of what life will be like for them against their soon-to-be-new rivals.
They just hope it won’t be like this all the time.
The Blue Devils (13-8) dominated after halftime as Falls’ offense mysteriously disappeared in the final 16 minutes. Tallmadge outscored the Black Tigers 28-10 in the second half and stifled Falls for much of the afternoon.
"They [the Blue Devils] do a very good job of controlling tempo," Falls head coach Joe Nowak said. "I thought we had good shots, especially in the first half. They just didn’t fall. We have to find a way to be more consistent with our energy level. That’s a big challenge for us right now."
Tallmadge bottled up the Black Tigers (13-8) with its array of defenses and held Falls’ star Chelsea Huffman in check for much of the game.
Although she finished with 16 points, nothing came easy for the standout senior guard who has scored more than 1,200 points during her career.
"We always come into the game knowing who we want to stop and focus on," Blue Devils head coach Brett Bickar said. "We didn’t really do anything special. The plan for her [Saturday] was to identify where she was at all times. She got a few easy looks and she knocked them down. She’s a really good player."
Tallmadge’s star, on the other hand, was a bit more efficient.
Senior guard Lizzie Bickar scored 11 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. As usual, she did just about everything else too.
Lizzie Bickar added five steals and set up her teammates with her passing and ability to push the ball in transition.
The younger Bickar got plenty of help too.
Sophomore center Addie Bowman added 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for the Blue Devils.
Although Huffman struggled with her shot, she still was the Black Tigers’ most productive player by far. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing for Falls.
No other Black Tiger scored more than six points.
"I think we’re in a spot right now where we can go one of two ways," Nowak said. "We can continue to struggle and try to do too much at times or we can respond to the adversity that we have.
"I think that we have proven all year that we’ve responded well to challenges. There just isn’t a lot of time left to hang our heads. If we respond, I have no doubt we’ll bounce back effectively."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.