Dream weekend for poll voters

Daily Record Sports Writer

BERLIN — As I sat down to write in my votes for this week’s Associated Press poll Sunday, I felt a renewed confidence in my job.

Quite a lot of that had to do with seeing 13 games so far this weekend with about half of the best teams Ohio has to offer at the Classic in the Country V.

Most voters, myself included, have to rely on word of mouth, Internet postings, web stories from other papers and the daily scores to figure out who to put in. It’s the sort of thing that can take several hours at a time, and is rarely an exact science. It’s not like college football, where you have a chance to see each team on national television. It pretty well comes down to getting lucky enough to see them live.

That finally happened this weekend at the Perry Reese Community Center.

Coming into the week, I was fairly confident in who to vote for. I’d seen a lot of them last year at the CITC.

In Div. I, I knew I could rely on West Chester Lakota West, which boasts the state’s best one-two post duo in Amber Gray and Alexis Rogers. And I knew Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame, two-time defending champs with five returning starters, could be trusted as well.

In Div. II, things were murkier. Two-time defending champion River View graduated the best class in its school’s proud history. But they still returned some quality players and had lost just once this year. Then there was Sandusky Perkins and Hathaway Brown, two teams I’d seen a season ago that were pretty well the same after playing in Columbus. West Holmes’ great season had to be factored in as well as Canfield, a good Div. I team that dropped to Div. II.

In Div. III, Regina is always a safe bet at No. 1, and I knew local teams Smithville, Chippewa and Orrville needed some attention.

And in Div. IV, all that needs to be said is Hiland and Columbus Africentric, winners of the last three state titles in the small school division.

But how good was I at picking the right teams?

How do I know if Regina played poorly in a one-point loss to Lutheran East (No. 2, Div. IV) two weeks ago?

How many voters knew when they weren’t voting Africentric No. 1 it was because they lost a game by four was to one of the top 10 teams in America?

How am I to know what’s going on among some of the heavyweights from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo?

Are their players injured? Are new systems being implemented? Is a team losing games they flat-out shouldn’t?

The last two days, I’ve got some confirmations.

For starters, I learned that Lakota West still isn’t ready to be the best team in the state, Regina proved that by knocking them off Saturday. And I also learned that Mt. Notre Dame is the best team around. They’ve got six Div. I prospects and they all work well together.

Perkins proved they could hang with anyone by playing Regina to the buzzer, justifying my ranking them No. 1 in the first two polls.

Regina, my No. 1 in the first two polls as well, was as advertised. Add a few inches to her and Shay Selby would be a top-flight point guard in the Wayne County Athletic League — for the boys. And she has plenty of weapons.

Then in Div. IV, Africentric once again proved to be perhaps the best team in the state by bumping Hoover, and Hiland looked as good as I’ve seen them since 2006, the last time they beat Africentric.

Needless to say, the Classic is awesome.

It’s as good as it gets for people like me, people that need to know who’s who and who can do what.

I got to see how smaller teams would react against bigger teams. How small-town schools could play against city schools. And what types of things could hurt some of the top-flight teams.

And I got fed well while doing it.

Coming into the weekend, I’d seen just six of the 40 teams I’d voted for, while reading about most of the others. After two days at the Classic, that number has jumped to 20.

So how do a I feel about the rankings this week? In No. 1s Mt. Notre Dame, Perkins, Regina and Africentric, I feel pretty good.

Only at an event like this are you going to figure out how good things are in girls basketball. And only at an event like this can you see how good some of tomorrow’s college studs are going to be. And only here can you really vindicate yourself as a worthy voter on these sorts of things.

Thank you Classic in the Country, you’ve made my job a little bit easier. It should only get better today.