BERLIN — The Classic in the Country is considered one of the top showcases of girls basketball in the nation, and fans will get a special treat this weekend at Hiland’s Perry Reese Center.
Beginning at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in The Associated Press Division I state poll will play consecutively. No. 1 Mason (14-0) takes on No. 4 Toledo Notre Dame (8-0) and will be followed by No. 2 Wadsworth (14-0) vs. Toledo Rogers (9-2, No. 8 in D-II) and No. 3 Kettering Fairmont (14-1) vs. No. 17 Solon (12-2).
“You know what? I didn’t even realize that,” Grizzlies coach Andrew Booth said. “That’s probably one of the best things about the Classic in the Country. (Director) Tom Jenkins and (Hiland coach) Dave Schlabach set up these matchups a year in advance, and the way they’re able to understand who these teams are going to be is incredible.
“That’s why this is the premier event for girls basketball probably in the whole country.”
Wadsworth, which has won 21 consecutive regular-season games, will have its hands full with Rogers. The Rams don’t have a superstar — yet — but are considered the deepest team in the state.
Leading scorer Sasha Dailey (11.5 ppg) and Tori Easley, both ESPN.com three-star recruits, are locked in to Eastern Michigan, while 6-foot sophomore guard Akienreh Johnson (10.1, 5.5 rpg) and freshman guard Brelynn Hampton-Bey made verbal commitments to Michigan this summer.
As if they weren’t enough, 5-9 junior guard Jasmyne Smith, who is coming off two ACL tears and is the daughter of coach Lamar Smith, will be off to Miami (Ohio), 6-1 senior Marquelle Williams is committed to Lamar (Texas) and 6-2 sophomore Keasja Peace has offers from Michigan, Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.
“In terms of one through eight and nine, this is most talented team we’ve ever been on the court with,” Booth said.
The Rams, whose losses this season are to Notre Dame (56-50) and Salmen, La. (48-36), average 67.5 points. They are a defending D-II regional qualifier and entered Thursday’s game at Wauson 45-13 over the past three seasons.
The Grizzlies are led by sophomore forward Jodi Johnson (16.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg), New Hampshire recruit Peyton Booth (8.6, 6.7, 4.5 apg) and Mercyhurst commit Hannah Centea (7.1).
“It starts on the boards,” Andrew Booth said. “They’ve got four kids that are 6-1, 6-2, and there’s always going to be two of them on the floor. We can’t give them multiple shots and we’ve got to take care of the ball. They count a lot on their defense and try to turn it into offense.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.