POLAND — The 10th annual United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley Holiday Basketball Classic is set for Saturday with eight teams, including two of the area’s premier girls’ teams set to do battle at Poland Seminary High School.
The event begins at noon with games following to tip-off 15-20 minutes upon completion of the previous contest.
“Our goal is to always have great match-ups and once again, all four games are expected to be quite competitive,” Bob Hannon, president, and chief professional officer of the area’s United Way said. “I believe all four contests are excellent pairings and we remain appreciative of the coaches who play Friday night, then agree to come back and play on Saturday.
Kicking off the day’s action will be two boys games as the Girard Indians meet the Salem Quakers, followed by Boardman and Chaney High.
The Spartans will be playing the Cowboys for the second time in eight days, winning a thriller that went down to the wire back on Dec. 3, 50-49.
The third contest pits two of the area’s premier girl’s teams with host Poland welcoming first-time tourney participant West Branch while in the nightcap, the Bulldogs boys’ team will meet Trumbull County mainstay, LaBrae High.
In the tourney opener, the Indians will be making their eighth tournament appearance – they are 4-3 in seven previous appearances – and are coached by Craig Hannon. They are 1-1 and will host South Range tomorrow night.
“We always enjoy being invited to play in the United Way Classic,” Hannon stated. “It is a top-notch event, against a top-notch opponent and our kids always look forward to the opportunity.”
Top players include Thomas Cardiero (18.0 points per game, 8 rebounds per game), Gus Johnson (16.5 ppg), and Michael Palmer (12.0 ppg).
The Quakers are 1-1, coached by Jeff Andres, and are coming off a 46-34 win over Minerva. They travel to Canton South tomorrow as a tune-up for Saturday’s meeting with the Indians.
Boardman is coached by Pat Birch and will make their sixth classic appearance. They are off to a 2-0 start this season, having defeated Chaney and Tallmadge. Their win over the Blue Devils this past Tuesday marked the team’s 59th in their last 71 games (.831 winning percentage) and will host Ursuline tomorrow evening prior to their clash with the Cowboys.
“We are honored to once again be included in the United Way Classic,” Birch added. “Bob Hannon and his United Way staff put on a first-class event, all for a worthy cause and we are glad to be a small part of this wonderful event.”
The Spartans feature three seniors in Seth Cervello, Luke Ryan, and Trey DePietro.
The Cowboys, Steel Valley Conference champions a year ago, are coached by Marlon McGaughy, are currently 3-1, and will host Howland tomorrow night.
Both Poland teams have played in all 10 tournaments with head coach Nick Blanch’s girls team going up against 2020 state finalist West Branch, who are coached by Walt DeShields.
The Bulldogs are 3-0 – they host Struthers tonight – and feature Mary Brant (6.3 ppg), Connie Cougras (12.3), Abby Farber (6.3), Morgan Kluchar (4.7), and Katie McDonald (9.3).
“Playing in the United Way Classic is always the most meaningful game we play every year, due to the impact it has on the people in our Valley,” Blanch noted. “It is truly an honor for our school and community to be the host of such a special event.”
DeShields’ squad is currently 4-1 and making their first classic appearance.
“This is a great experience and opportunity to compete against a very good Poland girls basketball team,” DeShields added. “It is great being a part of the United Way Basketball Classic as they help raise money so that they can continue building the health and welfare of local communities. It is a very gratifying experience and memory for everyone on our team.”
The Warriors are led by Anna Lippiatt (8.0 ppg), Sydney Mercer (5.5 ppg, 9.0 rebounds), Sophie Gregory (14.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), and center Livvie Showalter (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
In the nightcap, Eric Fender’s Bulldogs meet Chad Kiser’s LaBrae Vikings in a game that features the new guard in Fender – he took over the program’s reins this year from longtime head coach Ken Grisdale – and the old guard, Kiser, who has been a staple of the LHS boys’ program.
Poland is 1-1 and players to watch include Christian Colosimo, Ross Dedo, Jack Fulton, and Carson Maurer.
“Having the opportunity to play in the basketball classic means a lot to our program,” Fender said. “We know how much the United Way does for our community and surrounding communities so to host this event in Poland is an incredible honor. We know that this is one of their biggest fundraisers throughout the year and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”
LaBrae is 1-0 and making their second tournament appearance.
“The United Way is an amazing organization that does great work for the Valley,” Kiser said. “The Classic allows our team to be showcased while helping the United Way raise money for their great causes. Aidan Stephens, our starting point guard, will not be available to play as he will be on his official visit to Yale, where he will be playing football next year. Tre’Von Drake and Devin Carter are both returning starters and two-year lettermen that will be leading us. Both play guard positions and are quick, athletic kids that can get to the rim as well as shoot from the outside.”
Tickets for all games are $8 for adults and $4 for students and children.
No passes will be accepted.
Schedule: 12:00 p.m. – Girard Boys vs. Salem Boys; 1:45 p.m. – Chaney Boys vs. Boardman Boys; 3:30 p.m. – Poland Girls vs. West Branch Girls; 5:15 p.m. – Poland Boys vs. LaBrae Boys