Top Classic Moments
Tigers top national poll with 1994 victory
Over the years, the Lady Panther Holiday Classic has attracted many of the nation's premier high school girls basketball programs and has featured numerous Division I college prospects and signees.
Among the players who have participated in the event during its first 25 years are current WNBA standout and former University of Connecticut star Sue Bird, former WNBA player and former University of Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw and current WNBA standout and Ohio native Katie Smith, who played at Ohio State and won three Olympic gold medals playing for Team USA.
In recent years, the Holiday Classic has not featured as many nationally ranked teams or as many high-profile players as it did a decade ago. As a result, the days are gone when fans watched games on monitors in the school commons because they couldn't find a place to sit or stand in the gymnasium.
However, that matters little to the host team, Pickerington North.
"But it's our tournament, and it still means a lot to us," junior forward Brittany Johnson said. "Winning it last year was really important to us."
North has won the Holiday Classic two of the past three seasons, including last year when it defeated Kettering Fairmont 50-44 in the final.
Below is a list of some of the most memorable moments from the Holiday Classic, which began as a four-team event in 1987 and expanded to eight teams in 1991.
1. 1994: Pickerington defeats Oregon City, earns No. 1 national ranking
Beth Ostendorf had 20 points and Cori Shade scored 11 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Tigers beat Oregon City 66-57 in the final, giving Pickerington its third consecutive Holiday Classic championship.
Oregon City was ranked No. 1 by USA Today at the time. The win propelled Pickerington to the top of the national rankings.
Shade hit two key 3-pointers, one early in the third quarter and the other midway through the fourth, to help the Tigers fend off Oregon City rallies.
The tournament featured Holdsclaw, who played for Middle Village (N.Y.) Christ the King.
"We wanted to prove ourselves and we knew this tournament would give us a chance to do that," said Ostendorf, the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "This game meant everything to us. Now there's no question -- we're No. 1."
2. 1998: Pickerington wins another loaded tournament
With seven of the eight participants entering the Holiday Classic undefeated, Pickerington backed up its No. 3 national ranking in USA Today, defeating Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne 63-48 in the final.
Future Ohio State player LaToya Turner paced the Tigers with 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, but Jennifer Harrison, who scored 13 points, including going 9-for-9 at the foul line, was named MVP.
"It sounded to us like everybody was betting against us against Narbonne, and that makes you want to play even harder," Harrison said.
Pickerington capped the season by winning its sixth Division I state title, defeating Mason 46-30 in the final and earning central Ohio's first USA Today national championship in any sport.
3. 1991: Pickerington falls to Franklin County
Pickerington lost to Winchester (Tenn.) Franklin County 62-61 in the final but would win its next 74 games before falling to Garfield Heights 59-54 in the state final in 1994.
This also was the first year the Holiday Classic had an eight-team field and featured four of the top-25 teams in the country, per USA Today, in No. 1 Penn Hills (Pa.), No. 4 Franklin County, No. 17 Pickerington and No. 25 Logan, which was led by Smith.
"Over the past few years, we've gotten an indication of how we stack up to the rest of Ohio," Pickerington coach Dave Butcher said. "We wanted to see how we could handle teams coming in from other states. We wanted to expand our focus."
4. 2003: North wins Holiday Classic in first season
In its first season, North won the ninth Holiday Classic championship for a Pickerington school, routing Cleveland (Tenn.) 69-37 in what remains the most lopsided title game.
Marscilla Packer, who signed with Ohio State that season and now coaches the Panthers' junior varsity, had 18 points and 15 rebounds in the final and was named MVP. North held a 12-3 lead five minutes into the game and opened the second half with an 8-0 run.
"I didn't think this win could have come at a better time at a new school and to start a new tradition," Packer said.
5. 2006: Gray enters event record book
West Chester Lakota West junior Amber Gray made Holiday Classic history, scoring a single-game record 41 points in a 81-72 second-round win over Georgetown (Ky.) Scott County.
She broke the previous mark of 40 points set by Wooster's Marcie Alberts in 1992 and finished the Holiday Classic with 80 points, 24 rebounds, six assists and six steals to earn the first of two consecutive tournament MVP honors.
The next year, Gray scored 31 points in the final as Lakota West defeated North 56-45.
"Premier players use (the Holiday Classic) as their stage to send a message," Butcher said.
Gray began her college career at Tennessee but suffered a brain aneurysm in July 2009. She finished her career at Xavier.
6. 2005: All-Pickerington final thwarted
Two years after the school district split, North and Pickerington Central had an opportunity to face each other for the first time in the Holiday Classic final.
Central reached the final by defeating Morgantown (W.Va.) 59-44 in a semifinal, but North fell lost to Lexington (Ky.) Catholic 69-36 in the other semifinal, temporarily delaying the programs' first meeting.
The Tigers were participating in the Classic for the first time since the split and lost to Lexington Catholic 63-50 in the final. North placed fourth after losing to Morgantown 53-51 in the third-place game.
"For us to be in the final of this tournament, it showed we can play against one of the best teams in the nation," Central coach Ken Schneider said. "That is a credit to my kids and their heart and hard work. I'm proud of them."
The Tigers and Panthers met for the first time two months later in a Division I regional final, with Central winning 54-47.
7. 1996: Hindenlang shines coming off bench
Pickerington senior Lisa Hindenlang played what Butcher called "the game of her life," scoring 20 points off the bench in the final to help the Tigers rout Christ the King 80-53.
The Tigers held Bird, one of 13 Division I college signees in the Holiday Classic that year, to six points in the first three quarters. She finished with 20.
Hindenlang, a 6-0 post player, averaged 6.4 points and reached double figures only two other times that season.
"My role wasn't to score," Hindenlang said in 1999. "It was to play defense and rebound. I played only 10, 12, 15 minutes a game."