Game 15  JAN 17 MON 11:45 am  Newark Wildcats vs. Kenton Ridge Cougars

By Dave Mast

This game should turn into a real catfight — literally and in terms of nicknames, when the Newark Wildcats try to tame the Kenton Ridge Cougars.

Kenton Ridge, which chalked up a solid 18-6 mark last year, will be making its third appearance at the Classic in the Country, while Newark, which ended the year at 9-13 last year, will be arriving in Amish Country for the first time ever.

The Wildcats are a real wild card in this basketball showcase. Young and inexperienced last year, they are not without the attributes to jump up and beat anybody on any given day, as Tom Jenkins said. “Just to show you how good they can be, last year they managed a season split with Div. I Final Four Reynoldsburg, who was one of the best teams in the state,”

They will be led by long, thin Paige Cashin, a top 10 prospect in the junior class of Ohio talent. With a thin, long frame and a deft shooting touch, Cashin can be a nightmare for teams because she can score from the blocks or from 15 feet.

Flashy point guard Reed Huffman will run the offense, while Kacie Evans and Kayla Bear will add depth along with senior Chelsea Steen. Freshman Maggie Mitchell has all the tools to jump right in and help this team win games.

“We’ve got all five starters back, and there is no doubt that we have a great deal to be optimistic about,” said coach J.R. Shumate, who formerly coached the Ridgewood boys varsity team. “I think everyone from the equipment managers to the fans know that this could be a huge season for us. Now all we have to do is go out and play like we’re capable of playing.”

They will be tested by Cougars junior Mariah Harris, a 5-foot-11-inch prospect who has the interest of a number of Big Ten and Big East programs. Harris is a big, athletic point guard who creates all kinds of match-up issues because of her size, athleticism and court awareness. “This kid is a really big-time player, and a major big program prospect,” said Jenkins. “She can really play.”

She is paired up with another big guard in 5-foot-10-inch junior Lindsey Fenwick.

Jenkins said that this game boils down to two factors: One, Kenton Ridge’s guards versus the inside game of Newark, and two, which team will show up with its game face on, ready to play.

“Over the past couple of years, Newark has really overachieved at times, and stepped up and played great in some big games, while Kenton Ridge has underachieved at times and played down to its competition. It just depends on who shows up and executes their game plan. Both of these teams are capable of playing some fantastic basketball.”