The first of the truly great girls basketball teams has to be the teams that represented West Holmes High School of Millersburg in Class AA from 1984 to 1986. Up until 1984, the Knights had never advanced to the state tourney, but that year it all came together in a very dramatic change for the better.
Under the direction of head coach Jack Van Reeth, the girls went through their 1984 season undefeated, posting a record of 26-0 as they began play in the Final Four. In the Class AA semi-final round, the Knights defeated Marion River Valley, 54-51, setting up a championship game with Orrville, which entered the finals with a record of 23-4. Adding even more excitement to the game was the fact that West Holmes and Orrville were also conference rivals. West Holmes had won both games between the two schools during the regular season, but this final game would be one where previous records did not count. It was now a one-game season, winner take all.
That championship game would be one for the ages, or, as girls high school basketball expert John Feasel rated it in the OHSAA’s girls basketball 25th anniversary program, one of the all-time great girls Final Four games. It was an incredible contest, with numerous lead changes and ties. After three quarters the Red Riders of Orrville held a three-point advantage, but the Knights outscored them 6-3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. In a very dramatic extra period, Orrville was clinging to a 35-34 lead late in the OT when the Knights’ Lisa Cline, who led all scorers that evening with 24 points, hit a shot from the foul line to give West Holmes the lead, and shortly thereafter the victory, 36-35.
The Knights finished the 1983-84 season as the Class AA state champions with a perfect 28-0 record. They would repeat that perfection the next season, and make it a three-peat in the 1985-86 season, winning three straight AA championships while going undefeated all three seasons. During the 1986-87 campaign the Knights would win their first 24 games to run their state record (boys or girls) winning streak to 108 games – a record that still stands.
- Excerpt from Timothy L. Hudak, Sports Heritage Specialty Publications