Berlin, Ohio – a town of around 900 people in Holmes County southwest of Canton – will once again transform into the mecca of high school girls basketball over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend. The 17th annual Classic in the Country Challenge is a three-day showcase of the state’s best teams, bringing in elite players, their families, coaches, college recruiters and fans into the heart of Amish country.
The showcase honors the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Perry Reese Jr., a black coach who, through humility, hard work and plenty of winning, eventually won over the residents of this all-white Amish community in the 1980s and ’90s. (In honor of its 60th anniversary, Sports Illustrated named its profile of Perry, “Higher Education” by Gary Smith, one of its top 60 stories of all time. Reese died of brain cancer in 2000.)
Equality and inclusiveness is the prevailing theme for the weekend. Inspirational messages kick off the start of each game, and excerpts from King’s speeches are sprinkled throughout the weekend’s festivities. The spirit of King and Perry prevails, with an emphasis on diversity, perseverance and the importance of loving your fellow man.
The event’s inspirational focus is one reason AEP Ohio is so supportive this year. As presenting sponsor of the event for the first time, we will be there in a big and visible way.
“AEP Ohio is very involved in the communities we serve and this is exactly the kind of message that’s important to get behind,” says Tracie Campbell, an energy efficiency program coordinator for AEP Ohio. “What’s important to our customers is important to us. We are happy to be a part of it.”
AEP Ohio, which provides electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers across 61 counties, will have teams representing many parts of our service territory. The event sponsorship includes prominent display in marketing materials, media spots, in-game announcements, T-shirts and more. It’s a visible reminder of our commitment to our communities and our shared goal of a healthy future.
Mike Miller, the distribution system supervisor in New Philadelphia, has a daughter who plays for Berlin Hiland and helped spark AEP Ohio’s involvement.
“I was playing when Reese was around. The Amish community really took him in and all the kids loved him. He was an incredible coach and it was awesome to watch,” Miller says.
“This event is such a great tribute to him. And it’s a huge weekend for girls high school basketball in Ohio. All the best will be here – it’s a who’s who, really. If you’re a basketball fan, it’s definitely something to check out.”
Join the Madness!
Games start at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 and run through 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20. The full schedule and other information is available at classicinthecountry.org.
Posted January 9, 2020