BERLIN, Ohio—The ever-changing landscape of girls’ basketball on both the high school and club level is harder to keep up with than the newest mobile device app or the latest intellectual detour coming out of Washington, D.C. One thing you can always count on however is an MLK weekend swing through Amish Country and Berlin, Ohio for the Classic in the Country. Now in its 15th year, the event honors the legacies of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and late Hiland High School boys coach Perry Reese Jr. Few events have demonstrated the staying power in terms of quality of play, attention to detail and sheer hospitality that the Classic can lay claim to. Then again, when you have had folks like Tom Jenkins, Dave Schlabach, the Ohio Girls Basketball Report staff and a litany of personally vested volunteers…it’s easy to understand.
While plenty of folks deserve a tip of the hat when it comes to the long term success of an event like the Classic in the Country, the 2018 edition warrants an extended appreciation for the efforts of one individual who played Mother Nature one on one all day Friday…and won. Bryce McKey of Ohio Girls Basketball Report went above and beyond as weather wreaked havoc on the schedule and line-up of teams destined for Berlin. It takes strong relationships, the respect of your peers and a vision of the “bigger picture” to keep things on track in the “eye of the storm”. Even with adjustments and changes, day one went off on schedule and offered up plenty of basketball easily up to the Classic’s legendary standards. Jenkins, Schlabach and all those associated with and attending the 15th annual Classic in the Country are appreciative of the effort that went into keeping things on track. Thank you Bryce.
A trip to Berlin in mid-January guarantees some competitive basketball, a depth of individual talent and a welcome mat a mile long. The three day agenda features 20 games and will showcase the majority of the top tier players from the talent rich Buckeye State as well as the next Ohio generation on the horizon. Also, highly regarded Regis Jesuit, the top ranked team in Colorado, once again is in the line-up for some Rocky Mountain flavor.
As mentioned above, Friday’s weather went into overtime throughout the night and necessitated some match-up changes but the event stayed one step ahead of the snow and ice keeping the six game schedule intact. This time around we take a look at the results from day one of Classic in the Country XV. Each day we’ll look back on the results and follow up with some evaluations following the conclusion of all the action Monday in Perry Reese Center.
Out of the gate Saturday morning Sheridan and West Holmes got things rolling in the first of 20 games on tap throughout the Martin Luther King weekend. West Holmes, from just up the road in Millersburg, held a four point margin after one period leading the Generals 12 – 8. Sheridan didn’t come to Berlin to take a backseat and responded in kind knotting things up at the half, 22 – 22. The Knights were fortunate to be in the mix shooting just 31 percent from the floor and figured things could only get better over the course of the final two periods. Wrong. West Holmes did their best to match the freezing temperatures outside and saw the bottom fall out of their field goal shooting as they could only connect on 4 of 22 attempts the rest of the way. Sheridan went “tropical” hitting 10 0f 19 attempts in the same stretch while outscoring the Knights 30 – 11 the rest of the way for a 52 – 33 win.
Sheridan owned the boards as well holding a considerable 46 – 33 edge on the glass that included 20 offensive rebounds in the win. West Holmes turned it over 15 times to the Generals 17 but it wasn’t enough to overcome the frosty shooting and lackluster rebounding numbers. Sophomore guard Kendyl Mick led Sheridan with 18 points on 6 of 10 shooting including a 4 for 10 slate from three point range. Junior teammate Rachel Cooke, a 5-6 guard, added 10 more of her own. West Holmes had two in double figures. Senior guard Kaylor Perone finished with 11 while Paige Race chipped in 10 more in the loss.
The Gators of Shaker Heights Laurel jumped out of the gate quickly on Youngstown Ursuline and never looked back. The Fighting Irish found themselves trailing 15 – 9 after one and before they could catch their breath went into the half facing a 32 – 13 deficit. They gave up another five points to the margin in the third before reclaiming the same five in the fourth and ultimately falling 55 – 36 in the end.
It wasn’t the shooting that got to Ursuline and it wasn’t the rebounding either. They held considerable edges in both categories. However, if you turn it over 26 times, as Ursuline did, while your opponent gives it up on just 11 possessions, you’re going to end up on the short end of the stick the majority of the time. Impressive sophomore guard Giuliana Marinozzi paced Laurel’s scoring with 15 while grabbing 5 boards and dishing out four assists. Haley Thierry contributed 13 more on 5 of 8 shooting despite sitting the majority of the second half with a leg injury sustained in a collision. Junior forward Lindsay Bell led Ursuline with a double – double of 15 points and 10 rebounds while junior Anyah Curd added 10 and 5 of her own.
Toledo Notre Dame and Kettering Fairmont came out like the traffic on the icy roads outside the Perry Reese Center…slow and cautious. In a “thrilling” first quarter the Eagles jumped out on Fairmont 7 – 5 in an offensive showcase. Both teams warmed up before the half as Notre Dame added to the lead taking a 22 – 16 margin into the locker room. The third belonged to the Eagles as they came out on fire and extended the lead to 34 – 19 with one quarter remaining. The Firebirds weren’t done however. Their furious rally across the final period saw them post an 18 – 6 run to the final buzzer but still coming up just short, 40 – 37.
Despite shooting just 29 percent from the floor, Notre Dame was able to capitalize on 20 turnovers courtesy of Kettering Fairmont. The Firebirds also held an edge on the glass (37 – 33) but gave up 16 second looks to the Eagles across the course of the game. Junior guard Jala Johnson led the way on the win with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Toledo bound post Ariel Cummings struggled from the floor (2 of 10) but still managed to add 9 points and 8 rebounds to the winning cause. Junior Mali Morgan-Elliott and sophomore Madison Bartley had 11 each in the loss. Another sophomore, Maddy Westbeld had 9 more plus 12 boards, 4 assists and 5 blocks. However she did struggle with 8 turnovers for the game.
Game four featured a pair of powerhouse programs each with their own high profile prospect leading the way. Mason jumped out quickly on an ice cold Gilmour Academy team leading the Lancers 15 – 6 after eight minutes of play. Gilmour knocked that ice off the rim in the second and traded evenly throughout the period but still trailed 27 – 18 at the break. The Lancer’s 25 percent shooting was a thing of the past as they opened the third period with a quick run and knocked four points off the lead heading into the final period trailing just 39 – 34. The continued to chip away at the lead and had multiple chances to tie things up down the stretch before falling 54 – 51 with a three pointer to tie coming up short at the buzzer.
Gilmour was just 6 of 24 in the first half before finishing 18 for 47 at 38 percent. Mason had the edge with a 20 of 47 combined effort and 42.6 percent for the game. However, the Lancers were 11 of 26 from long range to make up for the frosty first half and get themselves back in the mix. Mason had a three rebound edge (33 – 30) and a four turnover advantage (15 – 19) in the win. Sammie Puisis, a Florida State verbal, led all scorers pacing the Comets with 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting including 3 for 5 from deep. Gilmour had three in double digits led by Michigan signee Naz Hillmon’s 16 points. Hillmon added 12 boards for the double – double but struggled to finish from the floor. Sophomore Maddie Puletti had 12 on a 4 for 7 three point effort while Emma Gurley chipped in 11 more going 3 of 8 from three point range herself.
Another North – South power program match-up was on tap in game five. This one was a tale of four quarters with each claiming two for themselves before Solon claimed the win 47 – 44 when all was said and done. Mt. Notre Dame struck first jumping out to a 14 – 10 lead after one despite not having the services of Florida Atlantic bound senior Abby Voss who was still recovering from an illness. Things may have become contagious in the second period as the Cougars could manage just four more points before the half as Solon roared in front 22 – 18 at the break. MND got back in the saddle in the third knotting things up at 33 entering the final and deciding period. The Eagles outscored the defending state champs 14 – 11 to claim the win with just a three point edge at the horn.
Solon outshot Mt. Notre Dame from the floor 41.5 percent to the Cougar’s 37.5 percent clip. Both teams knocked down seven long balls but MND did it on just 11 attempts to 17 for Solon. The Comets also held the rebounding edge by 11 also pulling 12 boards on the offensive end. The Cougars finished with just 15 turnovers while forcing Solon into 17 miscues. Senior post Valencia Myers, a Florida State signee, led the way in the win with 14 points and 9 rebounds. She got help from classmate Katherine Dittoe who added 12 more on a 4 for 7 three point night. Sophomore Makira Cook paced the Cougars in the loss with 12 points but turned it over 6 times. Senior teammate Gabbie Marshall, an Iowa signee, had 11 more but was a critical loss down the stretch with an ankle injury and early exit.
Regis Jesuit is making the most of their trip to Ohio. They managed to squeeze two games in Saturday. Weather moved their Friday match-up in Canton with Glenoak to an early Saturday tip-off in which they went on to claim a 46 – 40 win in before returning to Berlin to take on the host hawks from Hiland High School. If the Raiders were tired they didn’t show it jumping out to a 16 – 7 lead on Hiland after one period of play. The Hawks, who were uncharacteristically cold on their home floor in the first half (24%) closed the gap across the second quarter and trailed just 22 – 20 entering the break. Regis added three more to the lead in the third and held off the never say die Hawks all the way to the buzzer in another 46 – 40 win.
While Hiland did “warm” up to 28.6 percent for the game they were on the short end of the shooting as Jesuit was 19 for 40 at 47.5 percent. The Hawks did enjoy the benefit of 8 three pointers but it took 27 attempts to chalk them up. Despite a considerable size advantage the Raiders enjoyed just a one rebound edge on the glass. Both teams demonstrated some solid decision making turning it over only nine times apiece. Senior post Noelle Cahill led Regis in the win with 15 on 7 for 9 shooting. Skilled freshman guard Avery Van Sickle added 13 more and highly regarded junior Fran Belibi offered up a double – double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Hiland senior guard Kennedy Schlabach was the only Hawk in double digits finishing with 13 while classmate Sara Keim added 9 more on 3 for 9 shooting from behind the arch.