TALLMADGE — Since she joined the varsity team less than two years ago, Addie Bowman has been a cornerstone in the starting lineup.
Her stay under the varsity lights wouldn’t have been possible if not for a certain selfless person, who happens to be significantly shorter than the 6-foot-2 Bowman.
Perhaps Helen Keller may have said it best when it comes to Bowman’s fondness for a standout three-sport senior, who has gleefully taken the sophomore center under her wing.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light,” the 20th-century American author once said.
So who is this special young lady that Bowman wants by her side if she finds herself in a dark alley?
Her name is Jill Catalano, a 5-foot-7 forward who happens to know her way through the trenches.
“Jill got me into it,” Bowman said. “She was a post. When I came in, she really guided me and helped me along.”
Catalano’s pupil has become quite a low-post prodigy.
Thanks to Bowman’s 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, the host Blue Devils stunned Suburban League crossover rival Cuyahoga Falls 46-31 last Saturday at James O. Maddox Court.
Bowman played almost flawlessly against an opponent that has certainly held its own against schools much larger than the one that makes its home on North Munroe Road.
“Coach warned us about it,” Bowman said. “We just knew we had to do our best. It wasn’t a team that we could just walk out and not do our best.”
It sure wasn’t.
The Black Tigers, who will soon play in the Division I postseason tournament, have won 13 games for the second consecutive year. They also have a winning record against some rather formidable National Conference opponents.
By contrast, Tallmadge plays in the smaller-school American Conference, which is rather rugged in its own right.
Bowman certainly had some motivation to push her ever-expanding game to new heights. Prior to the game, the Blue Devils honored their three seniors.
That group included Bowman’s BFF, Catalano, and senior guards Lizzie Bickar and Rae’lya Sibley.
“I knew I had to step it up because senior night is a big night for us,” Bowman said. “I didn’t want to let Jill and Lizzie and Rae down. I just knew I had to do my best. I had friends and coaches here that kind of put a little pep in my step.”
That pep in her step may have been lacking a bit in the second quarter.
A 13-3 run gave Falls a 17-15 lead after the Black Tigers scored just four points in the opening period. Although Tallmadge was very much within striking distance at halftime, it was not the kind of performance Bowman and Co. anticipated.
Especially after the lavish celebration prior to tipoff.
“In the locker room, coach told us to keep our energy up,” Bowman said. “We had to change a couple of fundamental things. Our energy wasn’t the best, but in the second half, we picked it up.”
They sure did.
The Blue Devils outscored Falls 28-10 in the final 16 minutes. Bowman was particularly instrumental in Tallmadge’s second-half dominance. She scored eight points and had five rebounds after the two teams returned from their locker rooms.
“Rebounding was great,” said Blue Devils’ first-year head coach Brett Bickar of his tallest player. “That was very important. She was getting rebounds all around the hoop. When she’s active and moving from side to side, she’s a very, very good rebounder, probably right up there with one of the best in the league.”
Crashing the glass has become a full-time career for the skillful Bowman. She’ll be more than happy to continue this not particularly glamorous job for at least another two seasons.
“I know my role is rebounds,” Bowman said. “Nine times out of 10, I’m the biggest girl on the court. I have to have the mentality that every rebound is mine. Every shot that goes up, I have to box out and get the rebound.
“I just have the mentality to be a post player. Coach Bickar has really instilled that in me.”
Her coach has proven to be a wise man when it comes to his favorite post player. On Saturday, Bowman justified her coach’s wisdom rather emphatically against a quality opponent.
“Some days you can tell she is just a little more ready to catch the ball,” Coach Bickar said. “Maya [Dexter] gave her some nice passes; Lizzie gave her a couple nice passes.
“She didn’t rush. Sometimes there will be games when she’ll rush and that will really throw her off. [Saturday], she was under control. She caught it under control and found the backboard.”
Bowman hopes to continue her massive progression at a position that has lost a bit of its luster in recent years.
In an era of stretch fours and post players that prefer the 3-point arc over the paint, Bowman is a bit of a throwback.
She doesn’t mind, though.
Like a certain deaf and blind person who became an inspiration to many, Bowman will continue to do things her way, regardless if it’s not particularly fashionable.
For Bowman, another quote by “The Story of My Life” author may be the best way to describe her so-called outdated game.
“I seldom think about my limitations and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is a touch or yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.”
It has been quite a “breeze” for Bowman thus far, especially since she has her favorite “flower” to appreciate.
Thanks mainly to the guidance of its version of Anne Sullivan, Tallmadge can continue to enjoy watching its own “Miracle Worker” do her thing for the next two years.
“She has always had my back,” Bowman said of Catalano. “I always look up to her. I appreciate everything she has done.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.