Kiper bringing his Seahawks to Classic in the Country

BERLIN — Former Triway player and assistant coach Brian Kiper is coming home for a brief visit. He will be bringing with him a team of top-notch females hoopsters, the reigning 3A champions in the state of South Carolina.

The girls from Myrtle Beach High School will be playing two games in the eighth Classic in the Country Challenge this weekend at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center.

“I talked with some people I coached with and some former players I used to coach who are now coaching or still around the game of basketball that want to come,” Kiper said. “Triway girls coach B.J. Sanderson, who actually brought his team down here this summer to do some scrimmaging, has mentioned he wanted to come see us play, and the Clear Fork boys coach has talked about coming to watch as well.

“It will be a fun experience for me, but it will be a great experience for these girls,” he added. “For several of them, aside from a couple AAU tournaments, they don’t get out of South Carolina very often, especially to the cold of Ohio in the middle of January. It will be an interesting experience for them.”

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Division IV State champs making a run to repeat

Game 9 JAN 16 SUN 1:45 pm Warren Howland Tigers vs. Harvest Prep Warriors

This game pits a Division IV State champion with a full house returning from last year against one of the best post players in the state. Harvest Prep returns all five starters from last year’s championship team, and eight of its top nine players. It is no wonder that OGBR’s Tom Jenkins predicted that the Warriors will repeat.

“They’ve got to be the biggest favorite to win their division this season,” said Jenkins of the Warriors, who reeled off 20 in a row to win the Div. IV title with a sparkling 27-1 mark.

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Veteran Redskins take on Red Riders

Game 14 JAN 17 MON 10:00 am Fort Loramie Redskins vs. Orrville Red Riders

This game pits one of the premier Div. IV programs in the state in Fort Loramie against a great Div. III program in Orrville.

If one-on-one guard match-ups entice you, this is a game you won’t want to miss. And not only are these two battling guards nimble with the ball, both can also act as bruisers when necessary.

The Redskins, who had another solid year at 19-5 last season, will trot 5-foot-10-inch senior Janel Olberding on to the court. The big-time track star is long and lean, possessing cat-like quickness and tremendous skills.

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Cat fight on the floor at Reese Center

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

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,”

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One-time fill-in game turns into Classic contest

Game 18 JAN 17 MON 5:00 pm Princeton Vikings vs. Midpark Meteors

Talk about lucking your way into a crowning achievement.

That is how Tom Jenkins feels about this match-up of a pair of teams that were at one point a mid-level contest, but following a rash of transfers, became one of the marquee contests in the Classic.

“This game was actually sort of a last-minute fill-in game, that has become one of the best games on the schedule, thanks to a lot of transfers for both clubs,” said Jenkins. “With all the movement, we’ve got about as much talent between these two teams as in any this weekend.”

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Two talented, disciplined teams

Game 16 JAN 17 MON 1:30 pm Indian Hill Braves vs. West Holmes Lady Knights
That rumbling sound you hear may well be coming from the approaching clash of the Braves and Lady Knights, who will present a top-notch Div. II contest. These two teams have been building momentum over the past couple of seasons, and both have high hopes of making some noise all the way to the State tournament this year.

The Scott Rogers-coached Braves will bring Dr. Rogers’ intensity and discipline to the Reese Center. Led by dynamic point guard Nicole Bell, whom Tom Jenkins called, “Pound for pound the toughest player in the state,” Indian Hill has its sights set on extending its tournament run beyond last year’s loss in the Regional semifinal to Kettering Alter, which eventually made its way to State.

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Battle of big-time schools, big-time names

Game 12 JAN 16 SUN 7:00 pm Toledo Start Spartans vs duPont Manual (KY) Lady Crimsons

When duPont head coach Stacy Pendleton heard about Classic in the Country from Martin Clapp, one of the Purdue University coaches who was scouting the Lady Crimsons, he knew he had to check it out. “He told me that I needed to do whatever I had to do to get into this thing,” said Pendleton.

He did, and Classic co-director Tom Jenkins is always thrilled to bring in out-of-state teams that are the premier programs in their state.

duPont Manual, out of Kentucky, will bring with it an incredibly gifted group of talent, since Pendleton has all but one of his kids back from a 24-6 season last year. Older and wiser, this team is athletic, plays fast, pressures the ball end-line to end-line and is nine deep. The only pressure facing Pendleton to begin the season is who he will run out there as his starting five.

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Can Hawks soar past mammoth Warriors?

Game 20 JAN 17 MON 8:30 pm Walsh Jesuit Warriors vs. Hiland Lady Hawks

Walsh Jesuit graduated a lot of talent from last year’s Div. II Final Four team, which finished the season 23-3. But what hurt the Warriors more than that was the loss of a junior superstar, who transferred out and made Walsh Jesuit’s chances of a repeat trip to Columbus all the tougher.

Highly regarded point guard Rachel Theriot, who is as talented of a junior guard that there is in the state, left Walsh to go to Midpark, leaving the Warriors in need of a point guard.

Theriot’s leaving meant that Walsh Jesuit will now move from a get-up-and-down-the-floor team that ran the ball in a fast-paced offense, to more of a half-court set offense that will run through a pair of big post players. Liz Reeves, a 6-foot-0-inch big body underneath, will command a great deal of attention this season from opponents’ defenses.

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Improving Skyhawks to test defending champs

Game 19 JAN 17 MON 6:45 pm Fairborn Skyhawks vs. Hathaway Brown Blazers

What at first glance might seem like a bit of an edge for Hathaway Brown becomes intriguing because this will be Hathaway Brown’s second game in the Classic in 24 hours. The big question is, can the Blazers recover in time to face an up-and-coming team in Fairborn, which finished 18-4 last season and a bonafide star and talented depth?

Fairborn head coach Steve Hannaford has turned around a struggling program in his three years there, going 10-11 and 14-8 before watching his youthful Skyhawks explode onto the scene last season.

Jaymee Veney, a force to be reckoned with inside, averaged almost 12 points and 12 rebounds per contest last season and has averaged 10 rebounds per year since her freshman season. Veney, who is headed for St. Francis University in New York next season, made life miserable for more than a few guards who tried their luck at driving the lane. She is far from the only player on this Fairborn team. She is joined by highly touted sophomore Alexis Gassion, and Brooklyn Pumroy, both of whom can fill it up on any given night. Gassion is an athletic wing player, while Pumroy is a versatile junior point guard who OGBR director Tom Jenkins lists in the top five point guards in the junior class in Ohio.

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Tigers formidable foe for South Carolina power

Game 13 JAN 16 SUN 8:45 pm Twinsburg Tigers vs. Myrtle Beach (SC) Seahawks

Twinsburg is coming off of a dream 23-2 that was derailed in Regional finals versus eventual Div. I champion Canton McKinley. Now, head coach Julie Solis wants to test her talented team against the best, and they got it in the Classic, having drawn two of the very best from Kentucky and South Carolina.

“We want to be tournament tested before we get to tournaments,” said Solis. “We’ve got some huge expectations.”

The spark igniting this talented squad is Malina Howard, the 6-4 junior who was a U.S. 18-U Olympian this past summer.

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