By RANDY WORRELL Sports Writer
BERLIN — Coaches often say that participating in this weekend’s Classic in the Country sets the stage for tournament success in March.
For the Hiland, West Holmes, and Chippewa girls basketball programs, it’s a proven commodity.
Each of the three local schools taking part in the 13th edition of the showcase at Hiland’s Perry Reese Jr. Community Center advanced to last year’s state tournament in Columbus, and all three appear primed for another long postseason run.
West Holmes (12-1) came in at No. 3 in the first AP state poll released this week, while Chippewa (13-0) was voted first in Div. III and Hiland (12-2) second in Div. IV.
The annual Classic is primed for yet another memorable three-day weekend, with some of Ohio’s top teams and talent in attendance. Among the teams in this year’s Classic are three of the top four teams in Div. I (Wadsworth, Pickerington Central, and Mason), including West Chester Lakota West in Div. I, reigning Div. IV champ Fort Loramie, and Archbishop Kettering Alter in Div. II.
Alter, coming into the Classic at 12-1, squares off against Chippewa in Sunday’s second game (1:40 p.m.). The Chipps defeated Hathaway Brown in last year’s CitC.
“For our team, it really doesn’t matter who we play, we just want to be part of the event,” Chippewa coach Denny Schrock said. “We want to play the best competition we can, and believe me, Kettering Alter and Tecumseh (Chippewa’s opponent on Saturday) are two of the best we’ll play all season.
“It’s an incredible environment, not only for fans to witness great basketball, but for our players to participate in, and for myself to coach in. We know we have unbelievable challenges in both opponents we face, but I have to believe we’ll be a better basketball team after this weekend.”
Scouting area matchups
The Chipps will battle New Carlisle Tecumseh (15-2) in Game 2 (11:40 a.m. on Saturday). The high-flying Arrows have lost only to Div. I Sidney (No. 8 in this week’s AP poll) and Dayton Carroll, also in the CitC field. Tecumseh averages nearly 65 points per game, led by 6-foot Lindsey Nartker and Alderson-Broaddus-bound point guard Danielle Franklin. Each have scored more than 40 points in a game this season.
Chippewa’s stiffest test of the season will take place in Sunday’s Game 9 at 1:40 p.m. against 12-1 Kettering Alter. The defending Div. II state champs knocked off Mason — the state’s No. 4-ranked team — last week in Mason. The Knights feature a trio of Div. I recruits in Haley Combs, Braxtin Miller and Libby Bazelak. Alter is led by former College of Wooster head coach Christina Hart.
The Knights will take on Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (10-3) in Game 3 (Saturday at 1:20 p.m.). The Cougars’ losses this season have been to defending Div. I state champ Lakota West, 13-1 Huber Heights Wayne, and a 67-57 setback to Kettering Alter. Freshman Gabby Marshall — one of the nation’s best point guards — and classmate Julia Hoefling, a 6-0 post player, leads the Cougars’ attack.
In Monday’s Game 19 (6:20), West Holmes will battle 10-4 Warren Howland. The Tigers have won eight of their last nine games, and are making their CitC debut. Junior post player Sara Price leads the Tigers and is averaging 22 points per game. Tori Rappach is scoring at better than 15 per game and shoots better than 50 percent beyond the arc.
The Hawks wrap up Saturday’s action in a Game 7 (8 p.m.) bout with 7-5 Dayton Carroll. Two of the Patriots’ losses have been to Hathaway Brown and Kettering Alter. Carroll annually plays one of the toughest schedules in the state as they battle for supremacy in the southwest with Alter. Two of the top juniors in the state, Ellie Rumme and Amanda Schroeder, lead a balanced Carroll attack.
Hiland battles Canton GlenOak in Monday’s Game 20 finale (8 p.m.). The Eagles are off to an 8-4 start, and are in the thick of the Federal League standings. Dai’Shonna Polk leads the Eagles in scoring at over 21 per game. The 5-8 junior — a University of Toledo commit — is ranked as one of the top 25 players in Ohio according to the Ohio Girls Basketball Report. Polk scored 21 points in GlenOak’s 64-37 win at Wooster on Dec. 16.