Photo: Edona Banulla

Girls Basketball team ready for big stage at Classic in the Country

November 3, 2017

Tom Jenkins from the Ohio Girls Basketball Report (OGBR) and Dave Schlabach, head girls basketball coach at  Berlin Hiland High School came up with a concept to bring a high-level basketball tournament to Amish Country.

This concept created 15 years ago is called “Classic in the Country.” Berlin Hiland High School, located in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, is northeast of Columbus and is the host school of the national level tournament. 

The Classic is held on Martin Luther King weekend each year. This tournament highlights many of the best girls basketball teams in Ohio, as well as numerous other states across the country.

Bryce McKey, director of the tournament stated that the goal of the event is to foster an atmosphere of togetherness, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would want.

“We want to make sure the Classic in the Country is an incredible experience, so much that when people leave, they can’t wait to come back the next year,” Mckey said.

According to McKey, this year highlights three State Championship teams from last year which include: Berlin Hiland High School, Gilmour Academy and Mount Notre Dame.

“Many would say they are all the front runners in their current division.” McKey said.

Classic in the Country is an invite only event with only two Dayton teams being selected this year, Huber Heights Wayne and Kettering Fairmont. They have a committee who looks for quality teams throughout Ohio and other states. They also factor in collegiate level prospects and attendance when their choosing of teams.

The three day event hosts over 100 college coaches including the likes of Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Marshall and many others.

Classic in the Country isn’t just a regular high school tournament, it’s an opportunity to get noticed by college coaches as well. The exposure that the student-athletes receive is second to none, and tournament directors strive to provide an environment conducive to recruitment for these young student-athletes. 

Senior guard on the Fairmont girls basketball team, Olivia Frank is excited to see what the team will gain from this experience. “It gives us a step in the right direction, and we will build with what we learn from this great opportunity,” Frank said.

Head coach Lacy Drake knows what a great opportunity this is, and cannot wait to see her kids perform on such a prestigious stage.

“Being invited to The Classic is very special,” she said. “It is the premier event for high school girls basketball, and we are thrilled to compete at this high level.”

Drake knows that their weekend away in Amish Country will serve as a great team bonding opportunity, while also putting her players on a stage to be recognized by some of the top college programs and coaches in the country.  Fairmont currently has five players being recruited. 

Athletic director, Chris Weaver thinks the girls basketball team being invited is a great opportunity for both the school and community.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the entire community, the entire school district, the high school itself,” Weaver said when asked about receiving the invite to The Classic. 

Weaver is confident in Coach Drake and her coaching staff that they will play hard and represent the school well. He sees this as a chance to compete and continue to move forward in reaching the goals for the 2017-18 season. 

“The two games we play at Berlin are huge,” Drake said. “We play the best of the best and will really be tested. It will help set the tone as we near the post season tournament.”

Weaver wants nothing more than to see Fairmont at the top, continuing to push the limits and compete at the highest level possible.

“Taking our program onto a national stage is a tremendous honor and one that I’m proud of,” Weaver said.

As a player, there is no greater feeling than playing in a sold out gym. Competing alongside your teammates in that type of environment is a memory that will never be forgotten.

“We have big goals this year, ” Frank said. “We are on a mission to accomplish all of them and to make a statement.”

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