WESTFIELD TWP. — Cloverleaf might want to consult Dillon Mullins before every boys basketball game.
The junior center never had a doubt about his team’s 61-51 Suburban League win over Tallmadge, even though most viewed Friday’s victory as an upset.
“I knew from the opening tip we were going to win,” he said. “We came out intense. We knew this was the last home game for our seniors, and we were going to win this one for them. Everyone pulled together.”
Mullins (11 points, 7 rebounds) wasn’t far off, as Cloverleaf (2-19, 1-12) played its best game of the season to snap a 14-game losing streak with a win over the Blue Devils (12-9, 8-6).
The Colts actually have Tallmadge’s number, as three of their last six wins have come against the Blue Devils.
Cloverleaf got big games from Mullins, Adam Podolak (18 points) and Braedon Hansen (11 points, 3 assists) and showed the poise of a championship squad.
The Colts allowed Andrew Francesconi (25 points, 9 rebounds) to get his, but kept Colten Stricker (14.6 ppg) to six points.
Tallmadge shot 1-for-11 in the first quarter and 8-for-23 in the fourth as Cloverleaf salted this one away in front of a frenzied crowd.
“Beyond words, I’m proud of them,” Colts coach Marty Ryan said. “Their character and determination were evident all game. They gave a great effort and played great basketball. The defense really pushed our offense.
“We were doing a good job on the boards, and that gave us some great transition baskets. They played with determination. I can’t say enough about the poise, control and calmness they showed out there. It was fantastic.”
That calmness was highlighted in a fourth quarter in which the Blue Devils, who were down six heading in, started fouling to try and stem the tide.
Cloverleaf went 18-for-22 from the charity stripe in the quarter, and two of those misses came in the final minute with the game already decided.
“The poise is always there,” Podolak said. “We’ve always worked hard. It just never came together. We knew in the fourth quarter we had to knock down our foul shots, and that’s what we were focused on.”
The one time Tallmadge pushed the envelope, Cloverleaf responded.
Afforded their only lead of the game at 23-22 with 6:20 left in the third, the Blue Devils left Hansen alone and he drained the first of his three 3-pointers in the quarter. His final three of the third made it an eight-point advantage with 20 seconds left and the Colts exploded after that.
“We built off that tempo,” Hansen said. “Everyone got excited and kept going with it. To win the final game on our home court for the seniors, it was the best win of them all.”
“This one was big,” Podolak said. “We’ve been looking forward to this all season. It’s something you build off.”
|The Tallmadge junior varsity won the opener 61-39. Connor Rhine led the Colts with 12 points, while Michael Martin added 10.|
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloverleaf 61, Tallmadge 51
TALLMADGE 5 14 14 18 — 51
CLOVERLEAF 13 9 17 22 — 61
Tallmadge — Nate Bickar 1-0-3, Andrew Francesconi 9-7-25, Damon Gidley 1-0-2, Niko Skeriotis 0-0-0, Jordan Skeriotis 0-0-0, Jarrett Ross 0-0-0, Joe Vassalotti 2-0-5, Colton Stricker 2-1-6, Cole Baker 1-0-3, Justen Cambria 3-1-7, Anthony Miller 0-0-0. Totals: 19-9-51.
Cloverleaf — A.J. Timken 0-0-0, Matt Geig 1-0-2, Dillon Mullins 3-5-11, Adam Podolak 5-6-18, Ryan O’Callaghan 1-6-8, Troy Kapeluck 0-2-2, Braedon Hansen 3-2-11, Damian Tripp 2-3-7, Andrew Jarrett 1-0-2. Totals: 16-24-61
3-point goals — Francesconi 2, Bickar, Baker, Vassalotti, Hansen 3, Podolak 2. Rebounds — Tallmadge 37 (Francesconi 9), Cloverleaf 35 (Mullins 7, Tripp 7). Assists — Tallmadge 10 (Bickar 3), Cloverleaf 9 (Hansen 3). Records — Tallmadge (12-9, 8-6), Cloverleaf (2-19, 1-13). Junior varsity — Tallmadge 61, Cloverleaf 39.