By JEFFERY WILLIAMS
T-R Sports Writer

It’s now five years and going strong as the Classic in the Country V takes over the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center and the Berlin community this weekend.

Many of the top girls’ basketball teams in the state and a few nationally ranked teams will attend the 3-day event, celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of Hiland’s own, the late Perry Reese Jr.

“We feel like this has become not only the premier event in the state of Ohio, but one of the premier events in the nation for girls’ basketball,” said Hiland girls’ basketball coach Dave Schlabach. “We have 85 sponsors this year, somewhere from 150 to 200 college coaches and more than 1,000 players coming into our gym. It’s going to be an exciting weekend for girls’ basketball.”

Schlabach said that Classic organizer Tom Jenkins of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, has outdone himself this year.

“Every game has got its own great story line,” said Schlabach. “We’ve got nationally ranked teams like Lexington (Ky.) Catholic and Lakota West and we’ve got girls going to major colleges.”

The local flavor starts with two games for the host Hawks against Brookhaven and Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown, with Brookhaven being a Division I team and Brown the Division II team that fell to River View in last year’s Division II state championship. The Hawks will face Brookhaven as the last game of the night Saturday at 8:30, while the contest with Hathaway Brown will end the entire weekend on Monday night at 8:30.

“We are going to face two teams who are so athletic and so strong and we’re looking forward to that challenge,” Schlabach said of Hathaway Brown and Brookhaven. “They’re great teams and you can’t just focus on one player on those teams.

“We feel that with only so many non-league games, you have to face quality competition. Our feelings on our non-league games is that we try to make sure that whoever we play in the tournament at the end of the year, we’ve played somebody better than them and both of the teams we’re going to face are very good teams.”

Also locally, Garaway faces Orrville in the first game Monday at 11 a.m. Later that day, at 5 p.m., West Holmes plays Canfield.

Current Garaway coach Scott Bardall was the head girls’ coach at Orrville from the mid-90’s to 1999 when he left for Sugarcreek and the head boys’ job.

“I keep up with some of the teachers there that I became friends with in my time there,” said Bardall.

The Pirate girls, who are 13-1 this season, face a tough Orrville team.

“They are a very athletic team coached by a very capable coach in Marcie Alberts,” said Bardall. “They are long and athletic and they were expected to be good this season. It’s going to be a contrast in pace and style with us and it will be a tough challenge for us.”

Other than the local flavor, there are some interesting teams relevant to area squads playing in Berlin over the weekend. East Canton and Africentric, two teams that Hiland may face a long way down the tournament trail, both will be in attendance. Africentric, the defending Division IV state champion, will face Division I North Canton Hoover at 6:45 p.m. Saturday. East Canton will be the opener for the weekend at 10 a.m. Saturday against Waterford, another strong Division IV team from the Southeast.

Regina from South Euclid, a state power year-in and year-out, will be playing Lakota West at 3:15 p.m. Saturday while Division II teams Sandusky Perkins, Lima Bath and Salem will surely be watched by the eyes of defending state champion River View at some point.

The complete schedule for the event is as follows:

Saturday

Waterford vs. East Canton, 10 a.m.; Wadsworth vs. Winton Woods, 11:45 a.m.; Toledo Central Catholic. vs. Princeton, 1:30 p.m.; Regina vs. Lakota West, 3:15 p.m.; Bishop McGuinness vs. Mt. Notre Dame, 5 p.m.; Africentric vs. North Canton Hoover, 6:45 p.m.; Brookhaven vs. Hiland, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday

Princeton vs. Copley, noon; Winton Woods vs. Reynoldsburg, 1:45 p.m.; Regina vs. Perkins, 3:30 p.m.; Lakota West vs. Toledo Central Catholic, 5:15 p.m.; Mt. Notre Dame vs. Toledo Waite, 7 p.m.; North Canton vs. Lexington (Ky.) Catholic, 8:45 p.m.

Monday

Garaway vs. Orrville, 10 a.m.; Sandusky Perkins vs. Shaker Heights, 11:45 a.m.; Lima Bath vs. Salem, 1:30 p.m.; Dayton Chaminade-Julienne vs. Bishop McGuinness (NC), 3:15 p.m.; Canfield vs. West Holmes, 5 p.m.; Lexington (Ky.) Catholic vs. Youngstown Boardman, 6:45 p.m.; Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown vs. Hiland, 8:30 p.m.