By TIM ROGERS
Plain Dealer Reporter
Berlin, Ohio — It didn’t take long for the fifth edition of the Classic in the Country to establish itself as a girls high school basketball event where respect has to be earned.
Rankings? These kids don’t care about no stinking rankings.
Right out of the box, Waterford knocked off East Canton, 60-48, in the first game on Saturday. Waterford is located in the southeastern part of the state, was not ranked in the Associated Press state poll of Division IV schools and has never made it out of its regional tournament. East Canton is ranked eighth in the state and twice has finished as the state runner-up.
About four hours later, Cincinnati Princeton, unranked in the Division I state poll, handed fourth-ranked Toledo Central Catholic a 57-43 defeat.
More than 75 colleges sent recruiters to the event. Some of those on hand included: Ohio State, LSU, Minnesota, UMass, Northern Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Florida and Duke. Tournament chairman Tom Jenkins said he was expecting anywhere from 160 to 175 colleges to be represented by the end of the tournament.
Ricky Hunley, who spent seven seasons in the NFL as a linebacker with the Denver Broncos, Phoenix Cardinals and the Los Angeles Raiders and just completed his fifth season as the Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach, watched Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame defeat Bishop McGuinness, from Kernersville, N.C. Hunley’s daughter, Kenady, is a freshman on the Notre Dame junior varsity, and he has another daughter playing at Cincinnati Sycamore.
Let us entertain:
Part of the charm of the Classic in the Country is the entertainment put on between games by former and current Hiland students. Esther Mast, a 2005 graduate and now a junior at Kenyon, is the master of ceremonies and does a great job of getting the crowd involved in contests. How good is she? Currently serving an internship at the White House, tournament organizers flew her home just for the event.
More than 250 volunteers are working the event.
Packing them in:
While official figures were not available, tournament officials confirmed that the first day of the event – seven games – drew record crowds. The Perry Reese Center (capacity 2,000, counting standing room) was three-quarters full for the opening game (Waterford vs. East Canton), and there were few seats available for the final six games.