BERLIN, Ohio—Frigid weather, backwoods country roads and a small town atmosphere usually don’t combine as a recipe for a top tier athletic event. However, for the 14th year northeast Ohio and the city of Berlin in Holmes County have once again defined themselves as one of the premier settings for Martin Luther King weekend if not the entire scholastic season. Across three days the 20 games of the Classic in the Country are played in front of impressive crowds in an event defined by great basketball and welcoming hospitality. Honoring the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and Coach Perry Reese Junior, the weekend serves as a reminder of the accomplishments of both men as well as the all too familiar message that their dreams and messages are ongoing efforts to this very day.
The 2017 Classic in the country features 28 teams including 10 of the top 12 programs from the talent rich host state of Ohio. Joining the party this time around are also teams from Indiana (Homestead) and New Jersey (St. Rose). As always the college recruiters, media and evaluators will be out in force throughout the weekend enjoying a buffet of basketball as well as some of the best hospitality found in both scholastic and club basketball (The buffet isn’t just on the court!). Blue Star Media is once again on hand from start to finish for this annual showcase bringing you coverage of all the action.
Historically, the hallmark of the Classic in the Country has been close, competitive games. Day one lived up to that tradition with two overtime games and five games decided by seven points or less. Below are quick wrap ups and images from all the action in the Perry Reese Center on Saturday. The Classic continues with six more games Sunday and a slate of seven on Monday.
Game one was the day’s only blowout as Tri-Village jumped out to a 18 – 8 lead over Orrville after one period and never looked back while ultimately posting a 75 – 37 win. Orrville couldn’t find their footing shooting a frosty 20 percent from the floor connecting on just 12 of 20 field goal attempts. All those misses also contributed to a major gap on the glass as well with the Patriots holding a 54 – 31 edge when all was said and done. Tri-Village shot 52.5 percent from the floor and also knocked down 8 of 19 attempts from behind the arch. Orrville did commit four less turnovers in the loss but only forced Tri-Village into 19, not nearly enough to offset the low shooting percentage and rebounding results.
Tri-Village got double-doubles from three players. Senior Allie Downing posted 16 points while pulling 14 boards with impressive freshman guard Trisa Porter offering up 11 points to go with her 12 assists and senior Danika Mann added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Emma Printz led all scorers with 20 on a 9 of 12 shooting effort from the floor. In the loss senior forward Lillian Suppan finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while sophomore Mikaila Carpenter grabbed 9 more rebounds for Orrville
Game two was more in line with what the crowds, recruiters and media have come to expect from the Classic in the Country. West Holmes and Chippewa both struggled out of the gate with both posting just a combined nine points over the first eight minutes of play. Things picked up in the second with Chippewa holding a two point edge at the break, 18 – 16. The Knights rallied in the third taking a 33 – 26 lead entering the final period. The Chipps cut three points from the margin but could only get within four before falling 44 – 40 at the buzzer. Things were tight in the rebounding and turnover departments but the difference in the end was the 40 percent West Holmes shot as a team while Chippewa could manage just 31 percent making just 13 of 42 looks at the rim.
The Knights got 19 from 5-10 senior Sam Hall on her 7 of 10 shooting. For good measure Hall added 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Kaylor Perone, a 5-7 junior, added 10 more in the win. Just one of the Chipps hit double digits as promising freshman Celina Koncz provided 10 points and 5 boards. Senior Lexi Karovic added 8 more rebounds in the loss.
The day’s first overtime contest came courtesy of Glen Este from Cincinnati and Wadsworth. An 11 all tie after the first period was an indication of the battle to come. At the half Wadsworth had edged head by five taking the 26 – 21 lead into the locker room. Glen Este cut one off the lead in the third and evened things up at 47 each at the end of regulation. The Trojans continued their roll in OT outscoring Wadsworth 10 – 5 and claiming the 57 – 52 win. The Grizzlies didn’t help their cause shooting just 13 of 24 from the line over 36 minutes of play. Things were virtually even across the remainder of the stat sheet with the exception of rebounding where the Wadsworth actually held a 30 – 19 edge to no avail.
Glen Este junior guard Jasmine Hale was looking sharp finishing with 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting including 2 for 2 from deep. Sophomore Dakota Reeves added 11 more in the win. Wadsworth had no one in double figures. Promising junior forward Lexi Lance finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds while playing just 19 minutes.
The heated battles continued with a much anticipated match up between Pickerington Central and Mount Notre Dame out of Cincinnati. The game went down to the final possession with the Tigers holding on to celebrate a hard fought 44 – 42 victory. They were up 15 – 10 after one but the Cougars closed the gap to just one at the half, 26 – 25. Nothing was resolved in the third with both squads offering up 10 points before Pick Central added 1 more in the fourth to reach the final 2 point difference. The Tigers won the rebounding battle by 6 but committed 2 more turnovers than MND. The Cougars had more attempts from the floor and line but they shot just 34.9 percent as a team from the floor while the Tigers were more efficient coming home at 47.4 percent on the night.
Standout sophomore point guard Madison Greene led the winners with 15 points and 4 assists but finished just 1 of 4 from the line and committed 5 turnovers. Maliya Perry, another sophomore, continued her strong play adding 10 points and 7 rebounds in the win. The 2019’s were represented well on the other side as well with Gabbie Marshall pacing Mount Notre Dame with 15 points while classmate Julia Hoefling added 14 more on 6 for 13 shooting.
Slow and steady. North Canton Hoover turned a two point lead after one period into a five point gap at the break. They then stretched their lead on Reynoldsburg to seven after three and ultimately 12 at the final horn, 56 – 44. The Raiders could never sustain a run and found the going tough from the floor connecting on just 17 of 48 attempts for the game. The Vikings were slightly better at 44.2 percent knocking down 23 of 52 shot attempts. The margins on the boards and in the turnover department were negligible making those shooting percentages more critical in the final picture.
Ashland bound senior point guard Maddie Blyer was sharp both sharing the ball as well as scoring it. She finished with 17 points and tallied 6 assists with just 2 turnovers. Eastern Michigan verbal Makenna Drabick, a junior, chipped in 17 of her own on 7 of 11 shooting but struggled at the line making just 3 of 11 attempts. Sophomore forward Annie Roshak was one point shy of a double-double in the win finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Adrian Crockwell led Reynoldsburg with 12 points but turned the ball over five times in the loss.
Game six was a “classic” Classic in the Country showdown. Highly regarded Mason and Homestead out of Ft Wayne, Indiana offered up one of the day’s best played contests with the visiting Spartans from the Hoosier State taking the win 53 – 46. Mason led 14 – 13 following the first period and took a 23 – 21 lead at the half. The Comets added just a point to the margin in the third before a devastating fourth quarter saw them outscored by 10 and coming up on the short end on the scoreboard. Mason ruled the boards 36 – 18 while Homestead had just 10 turnovers to the Comets 18. Things were even from the floor but the line provided a huge gap. The Spartans were 18 for 23 in the win while Mason attempted just 3, making 2.
Florida signee Karissa McLaughlin led the way with 23 points that included a 12 for 13 effort at the free-throw line. Fellow senior Madisen Parker added 21 more on 6 for 10 shooting that featured 4 of 8 from three point range. Mason Sophomore wing Sammie Puisis went 8 for 18 on her way to a 20 point night while junior forward Ti Fulton added 12 more on a 6 of 8 effort of her own.
Day one’s nightcap was in line with the rest of the day’s action as host Berlin Hiland and Columbus Africentric went at it from start to overtime finish. Hiland led out of the gate by five and still held a four point edge at the half, 24 – 20. The third was a 16 all affair before the Hawks were outscored 20 – 16 down the stretch to make things all even after 32 minutes. Despite their second half run, the Lady Nubians came up short in the extra period being outscored 11 – 5 and ultimately falling 67 – 61 for their second loss of the season. The free-throw line again provided a cushion with Hiland making 33 of 41 while Africentric went just 10 for 18 despite outscoring Hiland from the floor 51 – 34. The Hawks had the edge on the boards 43 – 38 but committed 21 turnovers to just 16 for the Lady Nubians.
Dynamic and relentless Hiland 5-9 junior Morgan McMillen set the tone in the win statistically and with her attack. Finishing with 26 points and 8 rebounds, she was 7 of 14 from the floor and 11 for 12 at the line. Her repeated long downfloor passing kept Africentric’s transition defense scrambling and may have made her a candidate to start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns next season. Senior Angela Troyer added 17 points and 9 rebounds to the cause and promising sophomore forward Tiffany Weaver added 13 more along with 6 rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Horston led the way in the loss with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Unfortunately, she also raked up 7 turnovers. Senior Kennedy Aazubike had 13 of her own to go with her 6 rebounds.