Classic in the Country

4 teams victorious after Day 1 of 2019 Classic in the Country Challenge

Treasure Hunt one of many stars who shone brightly during Day 1 of CitC
Photos by James Wagler


The first day of the 2019 Classic in the Country Challenge at Hiland High School on Saturday, Jan. 19 is in the books. Game schedules needed to be shuffled and reshuffled once again as late as Friday night with some teams not being able to make the trip to Berlin, due to the anticipated snow storm and icy roads throughout Ohio.

Kudos to the event organizers, school officials, players, coaches and the many volunteers for stepping up and rising to the challenge once again to make this an excellent event. Mother Nature did her best to put a damper on things outside, but there was nothing but food, fun, warm hospitality and a love for fantastic high school girls basketball inside the Perry Reese, Jr. Community Center on Saturday.

Just like they did for last year’s Classic, the Laurel Gators (Shaker Heights, OH) answered the call late Friday to be a fill-in team, as did the Hamilton Heights Hawks (Chattanooga, TN) and Margaretta Polar Bears (Castalia, OH). The last-minutes travel plans didn’t bode well for the late additions to the schedule, but each team came away with earning some valuable experience against quality competition. Victorious teams on the day were the Mason Comets, Lakota West Firebirds, Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame Cougars and the host Hiland Hawks.


Game 1

Shaker Heights Laurel Gators 45

Mason Comets 60

Photo by James Wagler

Photo by James Wagler

Player of the Game: Marilyn Popplewell of Mason

The Laurel Gators may have been invited late to the party, but they certainly came ready to play. The Gators’ Giuliana Marinozzi had a 14-point, nine-rebound effort, and Taylor Thierry scored 16 as Laurel hung tough with the Mason Comets and were only down 32-27 at halftime. Both teams kept pace by scoring 14 more points in the third period, but it was the depth and overall talent of an experienced Comets squad that pulled away in the final quarter to earn the 60-45  victory. Mason’s Marilyn Popplewell finished with a stellar 16 points and nine rebounds while Alanna Carter led all scorers with 20 points. Megan Wagner had a nice stat line of nine points, five rebounds and eight assists while Sammie Puisis was held to six points but pulled down 12 boards for Mason.


Game 2

Lakota West Firebirds 66

Solon Comets 44

Photo by James Wagler

Photo by James Wagler

Player of the Game: Chance Gray of Lakota West

Coach Andy Fishman’s Firebirds jumped on the Comets early with their full-court pressure, and Solon had a difficult time responding as Lakota West pulled out to a 19-10 lead after the opening quarter of play behind the hot hand of Chance Gray from behind the arc. Solon found some rhythm and held serve in the second quarter to keep it a close 34-24 Firebird’s advantage at the half, but Gray and company were too much for the Comets to handle in the second half. Gray finished with 23 points and four rebounds while fellow Firebird Dominique Camp finished with a solid 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Nevaeh Dean rounded out a nice Lakota West effort with eight points and 10 caroms. Sammie Rinicella led Solon with 17 points, and Sydney Broderick defensively had eight rebounds and five steals to go with four points.


Game 3

Mt. Notre Dame Cougars 59

Hamilton Heights Hawks (TN) 51

Photo by James Wagler

Photo by James Wagler

Player of the Game: Gabbie Marshall of Mount Notre Dame

Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame had a particularly tall task facing them in game three of Classic in the Country, literally. Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) boasts a pair of monsters in 6-foot-7-inch Kamilla Cardosa and 6-foot-1-inch guard Treasure Hunt, who led the nation’s number fifth-ranked team in the USA Today’s Super 25. That didn’t seem to phase the Cougars, who rattled the chains of the Lady Hawks all night long. Led by sharpshooting guard Gabby Marshall, the defense prowess of center Julia Hoefling and a terrific team effort, MND proved it could be perched in that top 25. In a high-scoring first quarter, MND led 21-17. Then defense took over, and the Cougars’ lead was six at the half. The Lady Hawks got to within one to end the third period, but MND relied on wile and precision passing as it continually drove the paint and found shooters around the perimeter. Oddly guards Marshall and Makira Cook, forward KK Bransford, and Hoefling were not intimidated as they penetrated aggressively. HH played it tough as both Hunt and Cardosa kept chipping away, but MND won out in the end.


Game 4

Margaretta Polar Bears 33

Hiland Hawks 42

Photo by James Wagler

Photo by James Wagler

Player of the Game: Zoe Miller of Hiland

Hiland was looking for a challenge. They got one in a spirited effort from Margaretta, a late entry into CitC. The Lady Bears used a ferocious defensive effort and forced a number of Lady Hawks’ turnovers in the first half that saw Hiland ice-cold. Hiland was up 5-o quickly before the Lady Bears turned it on and led 22-14 at half-time. Margaretta has been a brilliant third-quarter team all season, but so too has Hiland, and the momentum completely flip-flopped in the third period when Hiland’s Brynn Mullet caught fire from deep and buried four 3-pointers that helped ignite Hiland to a 21-3 third-quarter performance. What really turned the tide was Hiland’s defense, which came to play in the second half and held Margaretta to just 11 second-half points. They forced eight Margaretta turnovers in the pivotal third period, led by guards Krista Troyer, Morgan Yoder and Mullet. Zoe Miller turned in a double-double with 11 points and 14 boards for Hiland.

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