CitC could teach 2020 a lesson


The year of 2020 has seen a great deal of conflict, as well as messages of hope that the world can come together in unity and solidarity. The message of accepting one another in love that was promoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been one that has become increasingly prevalent this past year.

Though the embellishment of racial harmony and the message of hope portrayed by King might have come to the forefront in 2020, it is nothing new for Classic in the Country, one of the premier high school girls basketball events in the nation.

“It feels like America is kind of late to the party,” Ohio Girls Basketball Report executive director Tenishia Benson said of promoting equality and unity among all people, a pillar on which CitC was built. “Classic in the Country has been there. We have been focusing on equality and unity for a long time now, and hopefully, we can show the world how it is done. That is really important to me and to us as an event. We have always been unified. Whether it was the incredible message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or through basketball, capturing those messages remains as important today as it did when we first started Classic in the Country. We want to capture those messages of hope and love the best we can.”

This year’s Classic in the Country XVIII will take place in the Perry Reese, Jr. Community Center at Hiland High School over Martin Luther King Weekend, Jan. 16-18, and while the slate of games has been flipped and flopped and altered in more ways than Benson cares to think about, the show will go on and the messages of hope and racial unity will continue to shine, right along with the great slate of girls high school basketball games the CitC has been known to create.

Benson said with coronavirus limiting the number of events they have been able to put together in 2020, it actually gave her time to stop, take a breath and think about how they could best build this year’s CitC event.

Benson said once she was finally able to take a deeper look into the Classic and what they want it to represent, it became clear there are silver linings in a year of so many struggles.

“Classic in the Country has always been right where the world is right now in sharing the message of unity and hope for people of all colors,” Benson said. “As an event it feels like we are meant to be where we are this year, right now, to prove a point that we are all equal and that girls basketball has been an avenue for us to share that vision.”

CitC has always promoted girls basketball, unity and a community coming together to make this special event possible. It always has been a great deal of work, but this year has been especially challenging as Benson, Bryce McKey and the OGBR staff have worked harder than ever to pull everything together.

Oddly enough, pulling everything together eventually morphed into creating two events simultaneously. While Classic in the Country does its thing in Berlin, the Journey to the Tourney event at Lakota High School will take place in Cincinnati.

In order to limit the necessary travel of teams, the two events have allowed teams to stay closer to home, meaning many of the CitC favorites like Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame, Lakota West and others will stay close to home at Journey to the Tourney.

However, that has opened the door for some programs that have been longing to get into the CitC schedule, and Benson is excited about the opportunity to showcase some new programs and allow some fresh faces to be seen in the Reese Center.

“We worked hard to keep teams regional,” Benson said. “We felt it was important to limit the necessary travel as much as possible, but this is a fantastic opportunity for some teams closer to the area to be seen.”

Benson said they also have pared down the number of volunteers, and the number of fans in the stands will be far less as the event practices social distancing. While the entertainment also has been pared down, Benson said the plan is to utilize the large video board to create some fun when the action isn’t on the floor.

One huge addition to the event was created for those who can’t attend or don’t feel comfortable going to a place where there are a number of people gathered together.

In anticipation of that, Benson said they have teamed up with Pass Tha Ball, a national sports relationship management website that will carry all of the games at both events via live stream.

“They are a national media company that does an incredible job, and we felt there would be a lot of people who will want to watch the games who won’t be able to attend, so this was one way we knew we could take the action right to them,” Benson said.

Anyone wishing to tune in via live stream can do so by logging on to, or links will be set up on the Classic in the Country home page at Visitors will be able to click game by game and pick the games they want to watch.

“We’ve really had to look deep and push the envelope, and this has been a challenging journey, but we have seen such resilience in people committing to this event,” Benson said. “Our team here at CitC is unbelievable. We had so many sponsors that stuck with us. They believe in the mission of this event. It was inspiring to work with people to pull this off. When we get basketball and we get fans at the Classic, we will have done the impossible, and that is a testament to the work our team put in and to the resilience that 2020 has built into us and to the message of unity that needs to be shared. I think 2020 has made many people stronger.”

For a complete schedule of CitC games, visit and keep checking in for ticket availability there and on all other CitC social-media avenues.

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