Classic in the Country, a 20-game, three-day high school girls basketball extravaganza in the heart of Amish Country, is widely recognized across the nation as one of the country’s finest girls basketball showcases.
It is an extremely detailed and labor-intensive undertaking that takes pretty much the entire year to create, and it takes the effort of hundreds of volunteers, who help the core CitC creators make it such a great spectacle.
But when Mother Nature dumped a monster winter storm on top of the 2018 Classic in the Country XV Jan. 13-15, promoters had to go into scramble mode to assure the show would go on.
With all of the great matchups featuring huge talents and great teams, the top billing for the weekend now became CitC 2018 versus Mother Nature.
Several days before the event, Minster officials called and said they were thinking about pulling out as the evil forecast loomed. As the storm rolled in the afternoon before the CitC, other teams began voicing second thoughts about coming including the team from Urbana, Illinois, which eventually became the lone team to pull out altogether, so CitC founder Tom Jenkins, McKey, Dave Schlabach, David Borter and others went into high-energy stress mode as they began burning up the phones to assure the full 20-game slate would be on tap.
What took place during that 24-hour span was nothing short of the victory of the human will as last-second plans were created and recreated as the schedule went through a major make-over.
“It’s been a fun and interesting 24 hours. With the weather coming in here like it did, our number-one goal was to stay at 20 games,” said Bryce McKey, associate director/director of scouting for OGBR. “We are very fortunate to still have a full slate of 20 games. The biggest thing for us was safety for everyone involved, and the administration at Hiland was extremely grateful in allowing us to move one of the day-one games to Sunday morning to allow us to push the start of the Saturday games to later.”
The slate still had 20 games, but the opponents had been changed in a number of them, and two schools, Shaker Heights Laurel and Elyria Catholic, replaced Urbana, Illinois on the docket.
Day one was a jumbled mess, but in the end it had a six-game lineup that turned out fine.
“We switched around some games, and that actually allowed us to create some really cool matchups,” McKey said. “The teams were very accommodating, and while we did have to switch some matchups last second, they were more than understanding and willing to do whatever to keep everything in place.”
The crew gathered at the Reese Center to hammer out the new details of CitC. McKey said that when they put one fire out, another would burst into flames, and they would turn their attention to that issue.
The incredible effort paid off when Dublin Coffman, one of the first teams to bow out, called back and said they would fulfill the final open spot on Monday night.
While they would like to say they were on top of things the entire time, McKey said they couldn’t quite make that claim.
“We were definitely behind the eight ball for awhile,” he said. “Actually that was most of the time, but I think we always knew we would figure it out sooner or later if we just stayed with it and had some faith in ourselves.”
He said the one nice thing about rescheduling was that the showcase has had a standing list of teams who want in, so they have some built-in schools to call to see if they would like to make the show.
“Between Laurel and Elyria Catholic, we had two teams who have been chomping at the bit to come down here and play,” McKey said. “They both readily agreed to do whatever they could do in order to make it work out, so that was a huge help.”
The trying times were a testament to the human spirit and spoke volumes about not just the guys putting forth the effort into finding teams to complete the lineup, but also to the schools and administrations who were so accommodating. It was wonderful to see so many different people coming together to keep the Classic rolling.
It was all about people uniting together, and in the end the manufactured games that were thrown together turned out to be some of the most fascinating contests of the entire weekend.
“We had so much fun. I think we are going to do it like this every year,” Borter said with a laugh as day one was well into its slate of games.
He could joke about it now that disaster had been averted thanks to a concerted effort by a lot of people and a lot of teams willing to work together to make it all happen.