Young Tallmadge girls basketball team looks to keep it simple

Roger Gordon
Tallmadge sophomore Maya Dexter passes to a teammate during a game last season.

The Tallmadge girls basketball team is very young this season, so first-year head coach Joe Leonard is going to keep things simple.

“We’re going to run some zone and we’re going to play some man-to-man,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a half-court team. We’ve spent a lot of time on ball handling, shooting and being able to break a press, which always gives younger players fits.”

The Blue Devils finished 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the Suburban League American Conference last season. They will try to withstand the losses to graduation of Lizzie Bickar, Jill Catalano and Rae’lya Sibley.

Leading the way for Tallmadge will be sophomore guard/forward Maya Dexter.

“Mya can handle the ball well,” said Leonard. “She improved on her shot over the summer, and she’s pretty explosive getting to the basket.”

The Blue Devils will also rely heavily on 6-foot-3 junior center Addie Bowman and sophomore forward Natalie Ries.

“Addie is really working on her low-post game,” Leonard said. “She holds the school record for rebounds in a single game with 17 in a game last season.

“Natalie is a pure shooter. She can shoot the ball from anywhere. She’s very accurate from deep, and she’s been working hard over the summer and the fall on her ball handling. She’s much more aggressive this year than last year at taking the ball to the hoop.”

Three freshmen battling for starting spots are guards Mia Zappola and Abby Caruso and guard/forward Sydney Becks.

Other players on the team are senior Gia Currey; junior Ana Crangle; sophomores Jadyn Harjung, Lauren Teeling and Lauren Matney; and freshmen Lexi Gray, Ashlyn Severns, Kathryn Headrick and Isabella Messina.

According to the coach, the American Conference will be as rough as usual.

“Aurora is certainly going to be tough,” he said. “Highland is always tough … Revere, Barberton, Copley … I’ve never played these schools, but having seen the film from last year, they’re all well coached and they all have good players.”

Leonard’s assistant coaches will be Courtney O’Donnell and Brin Stralka.

“We just want to get better. We want to maintain confidence,” said Leonard. “We have to compete, and that has been a challenge thus far just with the scrimmages.

“The team chemistry is very good, though. The girls get along very well, which is important because there’s plenty of work to do. They have very positive attitudes and a positive approach.”

The Blue Devils are scheduled to open the season against Amherst Steele at James O. Maddox Court Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.