Talent, tradition hit the floor for Country Classic

In a month, some of the best teams and players in Ohio high school girls basketball will descend on Berlin for the fifth annual Classic in the Country Challenge from January 19-21.

This season, the event will welcome the reigning state champions in Division I (Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame) and Division IV (Columbus Africentric), along with Div. II finalist Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown. In addition, out of state powers Lexington Catholic (KY) and Bishop McGuinness (NC) will be in town.

Bishop McGuinness has made North Carolina’s state Final Four four straight years and has won the state championship the past two seasons. The team also has a bit of name recognition. Wake Forest men’s basketball coach Dino Gaudio and Demon Deacon baseball coach Rick Rembielak, formerly the coach at Kent State, both have daughters on the team as does Ohio born NASCAR driver Dave Blaney. Player for player, Bishop McGuinness has as much talent as anyone coming to the Classic.

Lexington Catholic is no slouch either. It has two returning players in Natalie Novosel (Notre Dame) and Briana Green who were All-State selections off a team that went 30-4 a year ago.

Both locals will play again this year. West Holmes will play Canfield at 5 pm on the final day. Hiland will meet Division I Brookhaven in the final game Saturday, then end the event with a game against Hathaway Brown.

Of the three days, the most local interest could come Monday, when West Holmes and Hiland play, along with Orrville and Garaway. As things currently sit, those are the teams directly behind West Holmes and Hiland in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and Inter-Valley Conference.

There will also be some terrific players in Berlin for the weekend.

Sandusky Perkins’ 6-foot-5 Cierra Bravard will come to town with her team, then head to Florida State next year. Eight of the 12 players on the Ohio Girls Basketball Report All-Senior Team — Bravard, Amber Gray (West Chester Lakota West / Tennessee), Tyeasha Moss (Africentric / Xavier), Brittany Orban (North Canton Hoover / Northwestern), Kate Popovec (Canfield / Pittsburgh), Courtney Schiffauer (Youngstown Boardman / Michigan State), Shay Selby (South Euclid Regina / Duke) and Tiera Stephen (Dayton Chaminade-Julienne / Louisville) — will be a part of the field.

The field will also include seven of the state’s top 12 juniors, nine of the top 12 sophomores and four of the state’s top 12 freshman. So, there will be talent on the floor all weekend and most of it will be eligible to return again next year.

Games start at 10 am Saturday and Monday and at noon on Sunday.