By Kevin Lynch / Staff Writer
BERLIN — For the first time in the 15-year history of Classic in the Country Challenge, the three-day event at Hiland High in Berlin, weather was a factor. But thanks to the flexibility of participants, a couple teams that weren’t even scheduled to play, and the availability of an army of volunteers, the premier event showcasing high school girls basketball went off without a hitch.
Bryce McKey, associate director of Ohio Girls Basketball Magazine, the event promoter, and Hiland assistant coach David “Cousy” Borter commended the efforts of all involved to make the Classic in the Country another smashing success.
“This event would never happen without the incredible support of the volunteers,” Borter said.
“With the weather forecast coming in, we started getting phone calls about conflicts in district policies, which are different everywhere,” McKey said. “Dublin Coffman, for example, had a travel ban on weekends, but Monday starts a new week, so we were able to flip their game. And the team from Illinois wasn’t able to make it, but we were able to replace them with Elyria Catholic, who wasn’t even on the schedule.
“We called around to some teams that expressed interest in playing here, like Elyria Catholic and Shaker Heights Laurel, and they were able to drop a game to make it work,” he continued. “And, because of the reputation the Classic has, they were able to make it work to get down here.”
There were a lot of matchup changes and organizers tried to keep games competitive.
“We’re just very appreciative of all the people and their willingness to change,” McKey said. “Everybody here did a great job. We feel good about the rest of the weekend going off as planned.
“Teams scouted other teams they were planning to play and all that goes out the window. It’s kind of like the state tournament. You don’t know for sure who you are going to play in the next game. You’ve just got to be ready for anything.”
And that was the case at Hiland, from the concessions crew, which had to prepare for six games on Saturday instead of seven, and seven games on Sunday instead of six.
“Rob Moser and Art Yoder were literally here all night,” Borter said. “They had their sleeping bags out. I was here at 6:30 this morning, and Art was already out shoveling snow.
“People were watching the weather all week, and a lot of schools from southwest Ohio came to Berlin early Friday (ahead of the storm), while other districts weren’t allowed to leave because of the weather,” he added. “There was a lot of juggling around. Seven of the 20 games were rescheduled.”
Urbana (Illinois) left Chicago and headed about an hour east into Indiana, but decided to head back because the weather was too severe.
“As of Friday morning, Laurel and Elyria Catholic didn’t even know they were coming,” Borter said. “Dave (Schlabach), Bryce, Tom Jenkins and myself were in what I call the war room making calls all day Friday. We had the box scores and everything set up for the original 20 games, but then we had to go back and re-do all that. It turned out to be a wise decision to cancel that 10 a.m. game because of the Level 2 (snow emergency).
“This was the first time in the 15 years we only played six games on Saturday,” he continued. “But we’re starting at 10:30 a.m on Sunday and playing seven games then.”
He noted that throughout Ohio, most games were canceled, so many high school coaches appreciated the opportunity to be here.
“Many coaches consider it an honor and a privilege to be here, so they find ways to make it happen,” Borter said. “Teams like Mason and Lakota West left eight hours early just so they could be here before the storm hit. It speaks volumes about this event and what it stands for. After 15 years, you can’t take something like this for granted.”
Borter noted that things were scary right up until Saturday morning.
“Toledo Notre Dame got stuck in Bucyrus because of a Level 2,” Borter said. “They were supposed to play Game 2, but we flipped them to Game 3, because they couldn’t leave until the Level 2 was lifted.
“We’ve been improvising and flying by the seat of our pants,” Borter added. “At the end of the weekend, we’ll sit back and reflect upon it and be grateful to all the people who were willing to do whatever they could to make it happen.”