Hiland braces for another Classic in the Country

BERLIN—The motto of Classic in the Country Challenge IX is “Where Champions Compete & Hospitality is King.”

You also can add “An economic boon to Holmes County and the surrounding area.”

The ninth annual get-together, featuring some of the finest high school girls basketball programs from across the state, begins its three-day run at the Reese Community Center beginning Saturday.

It’s a weekend designed to not simply showcase the talents of the girls, but to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former Hiland boys basketball coach Perry Reese Jr. for their accomplishments in race relations.

The event, featuring 29 teams in 20 games over three days, brings a lot of hard-core basketball junkies to the area.

And their pocketbooks as well.

“It brings in more than $1 million dollars every year,” said Shasta Mast, executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. “It’s a huge weekend for Holmes County and the surrounding area. All of the hotels and motels in Berlin are filled.”

“When you take into consideration the hotels, food and shopping and the money that goes for those things, it’s a pretty big deal,” Mast said of the annual event. “We have people come here who have never been here before and when they find out how neat the area is, they come back in the summer.”

Dave Schlabach, head coach of the host Hiland Hawks, said the event gets bigger and better every year.

“The event continues to grow,” said Schlabach. “Every year the matchups are tremendous and the atmosphere is second to none. One change includes Under Armour coming on board as our first big National Sponsor. Their presence and help will allow us to continue to grow the event and keep it at a high level.”

“From the beginning we wanted to use this event to honor Dr. King and remember Coach Reese,” added the Hiland coach. “This weekend every year allows us to do that, while we enjoy a lot of really good basketball.”

The tournament kicks off Saturday at 10 a.m. when Liberty Benton takes on Fort Frye.

Hiland’s neighbor and rival West Holmes will battle Columbus Northland at 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Hiland also will play at 8:30 p.m. Saturday against Cincinnati Withrow.

A big matchup featuring two teams not from the area also will take place Saturday when Twinsburg and Kettering Fairmont meet in a rematch of last season’s Division I state championship.

The Hawks will close the three-day event by taking on North Canton Hoover at 8:30 p.m. Monday.