The 12th Annual Classic in the Country Challenge held January 17-19, 2015, at Hiland High School in Berlin, Ohio, once again showcased much of Ohio's finest girls' high school basketball talent. The event is considered must viewing for those recruiting the Buckeye State. This year 139 college coaches of all divisions came from the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast came to watch one or more days (20 pre-set games) of the three-day event. The Classic, sponsored by Kaufman Realty and Auctions, is hosted by Ohio Girls Basketball Report whose leader Tom Jenkins goes out of his way to put both talent and competitive pairings on the court.
Unlike much of girls' high school basketball, the games are played in front of crowds boys games would be proud of. Also many of the games are broadcast on radio back to their local areas around the state. Post-game, players and coaches are selectively interviewed by media representatives. The event gives the players a special feeling of importance which is sadly lacking in much of high school girls basketball. I only wish that more states would put on similar events run in the same totally organized to the last detail (including having box scores rarely present in high school) way.
Speaking the prep basketball language in the Buckeye State
In most states, one would say Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio. In the Buckeye state, schools are referred to using town first and then school. Thus this school is "Kettering Fairmont" in Ohio prep circles. Of course, a school which represents a town where it is located is just say Mason (Ohio) High School.
On to noteworthy players in Classic in the Country
Below we will take a look at some of the top performers in the event. I'm sure a case could be made for several others to be included below. Players had to have at least one impressive game to make this list thus leaving out a few "big name" prospects who did not shine well in cloudy Berlin, Ohio.
Players are listed alphabetically with height, position, graduation year and school.
Emma Bockrath, 5-9, shooting guard, 2015, Archbishop Alter High School
Bockrath's shooting (10/24 including five threes) helped her team to remain undefeated wins at the event over Rogers and Pickerington Central High Schools). The team is now receiving recognition in the national high school polls. The word in the gym was that Bockrath is still only 80% having come back from an ACL tear within the last year. Now seeing her functional on the court again, division one schools are now stepping up to the plate with scholarship offers.
Lauren Cannatelli, 5-8, shooting guard, 2015, Lakota West High School (West Chester, Ohio)
Cannatelli lead her team in scoring with 42 points as Lakota West posted wins over Wadsworth and Solon. Cannatelli, who committed to Dayton at the beginning of her junior year, is primarily a catch and shoot guard who likes to hang out in the wing to baseline area.
Shannon Coffee, 6-5, center, 2015, Centerville High School (Centerville, Ohio)
Coffee affects high school games with her strong presence in the key. Her size discourages opponents from shooting close to the rim for fear of getting the shot blocked or altered. Her scoring is primarily around the basket. Shannon needs to be commended for improved conditioning over the last year. It appears she needs to build some face-up range to insure success at the next level where she chose Stanford over Michigan State and Northwestern.
Mariah Copeland, 5-8, shooting guard, 2017, Notre Dame Academy (Toledo, Ohio)
Copeland, orally committed to Toledo, shot an impressive 11/19 including four threes at the event. A lefty, she combines above average athleticism with solid stroke appearing to like the wing area.
Naomi Davenport, 5-11, forward, 2015, Mt. Notre Dame High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Davenport was the brightest star of day one of the event with 15 points. She is light on her feet, can post up opponents and also go out on the perimeter and score mid-range shots. On defense, her long arms annoy opponents. In this contest, she controlled play at both ends of the court. After winning over Wadsworth on day one, her 22 points (but forced some shots) and 18 boards was not enough to prevent a double overtime 52-50 loss to a deeper Toledo Notre Dame team. For college, she chose Michigan over Cincinnati, Dayton, Marquette and Michigan State.
Sophia Fortner, 5-5, point guard, 2018, Wadsworth High School (Wadsworth, Ohio)
Fortner is one of those players who affects the game without scoring. She is generally in the pile on any lose ball and an annoyance with her physicality on defense. As a lead guard on offense, she protects the ball well and looks primarily to distribute to teammates. As a seventh grader, she was the quarterback on her undefeated middle school team. In eighth grade, the coach moved her to receiver as he needed to develop a quarterback for high school as she was retiring from football after that season. College coaches like her toughness but she needs to improve her shooting for the next level.
Akienreh Johnson, 6-0, shooting guard, 2016, Rogers High School (Toledo, Ohio)
Johnson, like the team she is on, can be very up and down in her performance. At the Classic, she was "up" and Rogers split two games losing in overtime 48-47 to Archbishop Alter and winning 58-40 over Hoover of North Canton, Ohio. Johnson, orally committed to Michigan, can hit all kinds of shots from threes (least effective) to her more effective pull-up jumpers and drives. She also hits the boards well. In the overtime loss to Archbishop Alter, she went for 19 points and 10 rebounds and then 11 points and eight rebounds in the win over Hoover.
Kaayla McIntyre, 6-2, center, 2015, Notre Dame Academy (Toledo, Ohio)
McIntyre was the star of day two (and perhaps the event overall) hitting the winning shot in the double overtime 52-50 win over Mt. Notre Dame of Cincinnati. For the day she tallied an impressive 21 points and 16 rebounds. Nice passing skill led to three assists. On day three, she shot a torrid 11/15 from the field totally 25 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the 59-32 win over Hoover of North Canton. Besides posting up and facing up in the key, she creates shots for herself with above average handles for a post. Signed with hometown Toledo, she needs to improve the consistency of her foul shooting and could build range some. Regardless, Toledo did well signing this one.
Kym Royster, 6-2, center, 2015, Newark High School (Newark, Ohio)
Royster displayed a solid, not-flashy post game in her team's 36-33 over Mason High School finishing with 17 points, five boards and two blocks. She showed an ability to score facing or posting in the key. Signed with Indiana, she should add badly needed athleticism to the Hoosier post game.
Jalynda Salley, 6-3, center, 2018, Reynoldsburg High School (Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
Salley is like a growth stock as she becomes better known more BCS offers should come her way. Strongly built, she moves adequately around the key. Salley needs to add more post moves and watch her conditioning but with proper maturation, a BCS future is likely.
Kennedy Schlabach, 5-2, point guard, 2018, Hiland High School (Berlin, Ohio)
Schlabach plays with maturity beyond her years in running the Hiland offense. When you realize she grew up from birth as the coach's daughter, you are not surprised. She handles the ball well and has a very positive assist to turnover ratio (6:3 at the event) made more impressive by her diminutive size. Her main offensive scoring weapon is the three-ball, hitting six for fourteen combined in Hiland's two wins (Reynoldsburg and Tecumseh) at the event. Another plus is her willingness to get on the floor as necessary for loose balls.
Hiland is a well respected small school program (under 100 per class) in Ohio having won four state titles and made numerous other Final Four appearances during Coach Dave Schlabach's tenure (now in 23rd year). Hiland is currently undefeated and ranked number one in Division IV (smallest class). Both teams it defeated at the Classic are in the largest (Division I) class and Hiland regularly play larger schools as the schedule allows.
Nia Staples, 5-9, point guard, 2016, Lakota West High School (West Chester, Ohio)
Lakota West won both its games (Wadsworth and Solon) in Berlin. However, it would have been much harder without this athletic point guard. She protects and distributes the ball well. Her scoring (20 points) was primarily via attacking the basket. At the other end, she is a strong defender. Orally committed to West Virginia, she still needs to work on her perimeter shot to improve her chances for success at the next level.
Alexis Stover, 5-10, guard/forward, 2017, Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)
Stover has what a lot of colleges are looking for. She is long and athletic and can shoot from the perimeter inside or beyond the arc. While she may prefer the outside shot, she also made a couple of nice drives during the event where her team beat Mason 57-53 but lost to Lakota West 58-36. With two other young division one prospects, expect Solon to be heard from in the next few years.
Lauren Van Kleunen, 6-3, center, 2016, Mason High School (Mason, Ohio)
Mason lost its two close games at the Classic (Newark, Solon) but Van Kleunen impressed with her high motor play in the key. She scores (25 points at the event) primarily around the basket but has a body more suited for that of a forward. She needs to become more proficient with her face-up shot.