Two teams now under new leadership

Game 2 JAN 15 SAT 11:45 am Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame Cougars vs. North Canton Hoover Vikings

One of the state’s most illustrious girls basketball programs has fallen on tough times recently, resulting in coaching change and the exodus of several key players from the program. Gone from Mount Notre Dame is coach Dante Harlan, who was a major contributor for years under former coach Dr. Scott Rogers as an assistant before taking over as head coach the past four seasons. Following Harlan’s dismissal, no less than eight Notre Dame players flew the coop, among them a number of prized talents.

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South Carolina’s best versus Ohio stalwart

Game 5 JAN 15 SAT 5:00 pm Myrtle Beach, SC Seahawks vs. Toledo Start Spartans

What makes this contest an alluring one, aside from the fact that it pits one of the state’s top teams in Toledo Start against the South Carolina State champions, is that Myrtle Beach coach Brian Kiper is a former Triway Titans star. Kiper is looking forward to returning to his home area, and with him comes a team that returns four of its five starters from its championship team that went 29-1 last season. In all, he returns seven of his top eight players, and feels pretty good about his team as it prepares for an upgraded schedule this season, which he hopes will challenge his team even more.

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Opening game 'As good as it gets'

Game 1 JAN 15 SAT 10:00 am Minerva Lions vs. Minster Wildcats

Why beat around the bush when it comes to pitting two great teams against each other in an event like the Classic? Tom Jenkins, Classic organizer and creator of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, said succinctly, “This is as good of an opening game as we have had in our eight years at the Classic.”

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Cougars have tough challenge in Irish

Game 8 JAN 16 SUN 12:00 pm Toledo Central Catholic Fighting Irish vs. Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame Cougars

While the mass exodus from Notre Dame following the exit of head coach Dante Harlan may have depleted some of the talent from the Cougars’ program, it hasn’t done anything to squelch the competitive fires which have built the school’s program into a juggernaut. New head coach Kelly Main has vowed to continue to strive for excellence, and will not use the personnel changes as an excuse.

“The transition has gone fairly smoothly,” said Main of the big changing of the guards. “We have taken the approach that we are going to focus on the things that we have control over and to not make excuses or dwell on the negatives that occurred throughout the offseason. We strive to have a purpose every day of improving ourselves in the classroom, on the floor, and outside of school as well. This is a great group of young ladies with tremendous overall character. We are taking the approach that we will simply out-work our opponents and try to get better in some aspect of the game each day.”

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It’s the veterans versus the upstarts

Game 3 JAN 15 SAT 1:30 pm Lakota West Firebirds vs. Northland Vikings

Andy Fishman’s Firebirds crew has plenty of experience in the Classic in the Country, having racked up an impressive 8-5 record over the fi rst seven years of the showcase. Meanwhile, Dean Washington’s Columbus Northland crew will be making their first appearance under the bright lights of one of the nation’s premier girls basketball events.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Firebirds will be a heavy favorite.

“Northland is quickly emerging as one of the premier challengers in Div. I to Brookhaven in the Columbus area,” said Tom Jenkins. “They’ve got three legitimate top prospects and the best player on the floor in sophomore Alexis Peterson.”

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Renewing the rivalry

Game 7 JAN 15 SAT 8:30 pm Columbus Africentric Nubians vs. Hiland Lady Hawks

Simply put, this contest is one in which both coaches and teams look forward to. After Africentric came along, it quickly became one of the Ohio small school program’s greatest rivalries, as the two teams kept a vigilant lookout on the other as each season progressed, knowing that they would more than likely have to get through the other to win a State title.

That has changed this season with Africentric, who ended last year at 18-6, sliding up a notch to Div. III, but thanks to the Classic, the rivalry continues. The contest will match wits between two of the state’s top coaches, Will McKinney and Dave Schlabach, who have both gained a mutual respect for each other’s coaching abilities and their respective programs.

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Classic weekend proves to be special weekend for all

According to both Tom Jenkins, director of the Ohio Girls Basketball Report, and Hiland coach Dave Schlabach, the significance of the Classic weekend was something that they could have never foreseen when they got together seven years ago to build the model for what would become the Classic in the Country. They had no idea they were putting together a weekend extravaganza that would
become second to none in the nation, which would not only showcase Ohio’s girls basketball talent, but also honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as perpetuate the legacy of Hiland legendary boys basketball Coach Perry Reese Jr.

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Can Tigers tame Kentucky powerhouse?

Game 6 JAN 15 SAT 6:45 pm duPont Manual (KY) Lady Crimsons vs. Twinsburg Tigers

For years, what has been driving Dave Schlabach’s Hiland program is his ability to introduce the game to kids at a young age. duPont Manual head coach Stacy Pendleton uses that same approach, promoting the importance of getting the fundamentals down at an early age through his team’s summer clinic.

Coach Pendleton is entering his seventh year as head coach of the Lady Crimsons, having built one of the premier girls programs in the state of Kentucky. Pendleton’s team is coming off of a fine 24-6 effort last year. Throughout the past five seasons, Pendleton and his Lady Crimsons have fashioned a most-impressive 128-33 mark, and his career coaching record now stands at 240-98.

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Bearcats trying to defeat State champs

Game 4 JAN 15 SAT 3:15 pm Canton McKinley Bulldogs vs. Brookhaven Bearcats

What’s not to like about this contest? Pam and Willie Davis, coaches of the Bulldogs, bring back a Div. I State championship team that returns nearly the entire core of its team from a year ago. All they have to do to get a victory in the Classic is knock off head coach Reggie Lee, who has simply fashioned one of the great girls programs in Ohio girls basketball over the past 30 years at the helm.

According to Tom Jenkins, if you’re going to see one game at the Classic this year, this is the one to grab a ticket for — if you can find one.

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Another Classic weekend is set at Hiland

BERLIN — If you are into high-caliber high school girls basketball, the Perry Reese Center is where you should be this weekend.

Twenty games over a span of three days are on tap as the eighth annual Classic in the Country Challenge will take place in the rolling hills of Holmes County.

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