LAKE TWP. — Jordan Maracek is a pest. No offense.
"Part of the job on defense," she said, "is to make the person on offense uncomfortable."
Did she ever in helping second-seeded Canal Fulton Northwest overwhelm sixth-seeded Tallmadge 50-30 Wednesday in a Uniontown Division II district semifinal game Wednesday at Lake High School.
Don't take "no offense" the wrong way. In the other sense, she has plenty, looking assertive and skilled in producing 16 points Wednesday. She also helped keep the ball moving in a way that set up emerging 6-foot-2 freshman Lily Bottomley to score 20 points.
The Indians improved to 19-5 on the season. The Blue Devils, who had a number of question marks with several underclassmen on the roster, finished 15-10.
"That team has a lot going for it," Tallmadge first-year head coach Brett Bickar said. "They're well-coached, fundamentally sound, patient. They pass well. They're skilled.
"And they're big. That's probably the biggest team we've played."
The Blue Devils’ first shot was blocked by 6-foot-1 junior Riley Cudnik. The 5-8 Maracek and 6-foot sophomore Carly Spradling made back-to-back steals to further set a tone for a defense that prevented Tallmadge from scoring for half of the first quarter.
Bottomley, who split time between junior varsity and varsity in December, but is a big-minutes varsity player now, made a quick inside basket off an inbound pass and converted a 3-point play soon after checking in for her first shift.
The Blue Devils began to attack the rim and pulled to within 11-6.
Lizzie Bickar, a senior guard on a Tallmadge team that started two freshmen and a sophomore, sank a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to make it 12-9.
Maracek countered with a 3 to end a Northwest mini-drought. A bit later, she made another to give the Indians a 20-11 lead. Then she leaped to tip away a Blue Devils’ entry pass, sprinted after the ball and took it the distance for a layup.
Bottomley rebounded and scored to make it 26-14. At that point, the freshman had 12 points. Maracek made another layup off a steal. It was 30-17, an ideal situation going into halftime.
Tallmadge's second pass of the second half was stolen by Northwest's Ashley Cudnik. Riley Cudnik made an important basket midway through the third quarter when she drove and scored to make it 34-21. Bottomley made an inside spinner to push it to 36-21.
Bottomley's 20th point came on a dribble drive and pass from Maracek and provided a 42-28 lead.
"When practice started no one knew what to expect," Coach Bickar said. "We struggled mightily early on and during scrimmages trying to find our identity, but the team really came together during those times.
"The key to our season success of 15 wins was everyone accepting their roles and playing for the girls next to them. This team was so unselfish on both ends of the floor. They all sacrificed for the betterment of the team.
"As a coach, I could not have asked for a better group of kids, it was my pleasure coaching this group, we created a lot of memories that I will always remember."
It was the final game for Lizzie Bickar, a 1,000-plus point scorer who finished with 14 points in her final game, and senior guards Jill Catalano and Rae’lya Sibley.
"No coach could have asked for more leadership and commitment from anyone," Coach Bickar said. "Lizzie led by example every day in practice and in games. She is probably the hardest working player I have ever been around from baseline to baseline.
"We asked her to do so much for this team on both ends of the court and she never disappointed. She orchestrated the offense and scored as needed and on the defensive end, her effort was relentless and her basketball IQ created so many turnovers and disrupted the other team’s offense that we can’t even put a stat on that.
"Jill presence’s in the locker room and as a vocal leader was so important to our team this season. With so many young players getting major minutes, Jill helped them through some of the difficult times when the coach was a little hard on them.
"Her effort every game despite being undersized, energized the team on a nightly basis. She gave everything she had every night and will never look back and wish she gave more.
"Rae’lya is a great teammate. She never complained. Injuries held her back this year from taking more of a role. She had a good start to the season and then she missed weeks with injury and never regained her best stroke.
"She was always a supportive teammate, a good young lady."
Reporter Steve Doerschuk can be reached at 330-580-8347, firstname.lastname@example.org or @sdoerschukREP.