Anthony left her mark
By KARL PEARSON
Chemistry has been important for most of Dianna Henslee's life.
"I remember being in Mr. Hordeski's class (at Jefferson High School)," she said. "He was doing a demonstration, and he made this big fizzy thing. I was hooked."
So enamored was Henslee, then Di Anthony, with science, especially chemistry, that it became her course of study at Hiram College, from which she graduated in 1992. Chemistry provided her with her first job in Ohio, working in the lab for what was then The Illuminating Company. That job also brought her in contact with her husband, Bob Henslee. When she was looking for career advancement, chemistry played a large part in it, leading her to a job at what was then Millenium Chemicals and the
desire to seek further education. It ultimately led to a degree in environmental studies from Gannon University in 2003.
Since then, Henslee has been given a position of great responsibility at what is now Lyondell Chemicals. In 2004, she became the environmental engineer in charge of health and safety at Lyondell's facilities on Middle Road in Ashtabula Township.
"I work with the air permitting at the plant," Henslee said. "I do a lot to make sure we are complying with Ohio and U.S. EPA standards. I'm constantly reading regulations to make sure I'm up to date. I guess you'd say I'm into industrial hygiene. I really enjoy it."
Henslee also relies on chemistry in her family life. She and Bob have been married for eight years. They have two children - 6-year-old Brittany, a first grader at Cork Elementary School, and 4-year-old Danielle, a preschooler at Kids Only in Ashtabula. They are expecting the arrival of their third child in June.
"It's a boy," Henslee said. "That's going to be a nice change."
But the word chemistry has another meaning for Henslee, a more intangible
element than the ones with which she is now accustomed to dealing. That
brand of chemistry helped turn Henslee and her teammates on the Jefferson
girls basketball team from a doormat when she started for John Patterson in
1984 into a powerhouse under the direction of the master mixer, Rod Holmes,
by the time she graduated in 1988.
"I think chemistry is what made our team the success that it became,"
Henslee, who at the time was only the second four-year varsity letterwinner
in Jefferson girls basketball history, said. "I think we had great
Those elements have come together in a completely different way now. The
things she achieved during her high school career, including becoming one of
the first two All-Ohioans that Holmes has accumulated over the years, has
earned Henslee induction into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation
Hall of Fame. She and Falcon teammate Kelly Boggs will inducted Sunday in
ceremonies at the Conneaut Human Resource Center at 6 p.m.
"I was very surprised when I was told," the 36-year-old Henslee said. "I
didn't even know an organization like this existed. It made my day."
Most of her friends and co-workers aren't aware of her exploits on the
"Once in a while, I'll get somebody at work who tells me they saw my name in
the paper for something I did back then," Henslee said. "But most people
Now they will, and they should. After all, during her four-year varsity
career, only the second after fellow ACBF Hall of Famer Shellie Crandall to
that point, Henslee started 88 games and averaged 10.7 points per game. Her
940 points brought her up just short of distinction as one of Ashtabula
County's 22 girls players to reach the 1,000-point mark and were second only
to Crandall among Jefferson girls when Henslee graduated.
She saw Jefferson through the tough times of a 1-20 season under Patterson
her freshman year. A 2-19 record with Holmes in his first season at
Jefferson followed in her sophomore year.
Henslee, Boggs, Ronda Carter, Pauline Hamper, Kelly Clark and Jackie Whitbey
were also the catalysts for the Falcons' quantum leap to a 16-6 record and
Grand River Conference championship her junior year, earning Star Beacon
All-Ashtabula County Player of the Year recognition. Then she helped power
Jefferson to a 22-2 record her senior year, a Northeastern Conference
championship in the school's first year in their new conference and the
Falcons' first trip to the regional tournament. She collected NEC Player of
the Year honors that season.
Nobody remembers Henslee better than Holmes.
"Di was just a great shooter," he said. "She could really knock the shots
down. She was Miss Outside for us.
"I remember how hard Di worked on her game on her own to shoot the ball.
When she shot it, I usually looked for it to go in."
At a mere 5-foot-5, she fit the mold for most of the rest of the Falcons,
but Henslee didn't back down from anyone.
"We didn't have a big team, but the girls were very scrappy," Holmes said.
"Di was definitely scrappy. She helped create what Jefferson girls
basketball is all about."
There are several other legacies Henslee and her teammates passed down to
"Di was an excellent student," Holmes said. "She and the other girls also
came back to help out when they left. Those girls used to come in after they
graduated when they were home on break and to open gyms in the summer. They
started the traditions we have today at Jefferson."
Like so many girls of her era, Henslee got her start in the driveway of the
home of her parents, Bev and Jim Anthony, in which they still reside on
Lillie Road in Sheffield Township.
"We had a hoop," she said. "I used to play with my (older) sister, Dana, and
the neighborhood kids."
Henslee also played in the Jefferson Area Girls Softball program in the
summers. But her first formal training in basketball came with Kim Mauro,
Linda McClintock and Liz Toukonen in the seventh grade. She and Boggs also
attended a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains in the seventh grade, which
helped prepare her.
But nothing could prepare her for what she encountered that first year at
the varsity level. The starting five for Patterson that year was pretty much
a sister affair with Henslee sharing the floor with her sister, Dana, and
Boggs on the floor with her older sister, Larissa.
That season, and the 2-19 struggles the Falcons endured in Holmes' first
season, didn't get somebody with Henslee's spirit down.
"I didn't get discouraged," she said. "I knew we'd get better. I knew we had
a lot of good talent around.
"Even though we were 2-19 for (Holmes), I could see we were getting better.
The scores were getting closer."
Henslee was always impressed with how Holmes approached every situation.
"I only remember him yelling one time in three years at practice. That got
everybody's attention," she said. "He was quiet, but he always seemed to
know what to say and how to encourage you. I can remember the look he'd get.
It was like Oyou know better.'"
By her junior year, with Boggs back from a year in Japan, the Falcons did
know better. It was reflected in their drive to the GRC title.
"There was a lot of hard work that went into that," Henslee said. "There was
so much talent on that team that you couldn't take anything for granted. It
"I felt we could have gone farther than we did. I think it opened everyone's
eyes to what we could do."
There were two things Henslee said the Falcons heard a lot.
"We talked about OThe Eye of the Tiger,'" she said. "Anyone that played at
Jefferson back in my day knows what that is."
Defense was also a big part of Henslee's game, even though Holmes relied
upon her for her offensive capabilities.
"Who could forget the box-and-one defense?" she said. "Not me."
Little did she know it, but Henslee got an extra jolt of incentive after her
junior season and she had earned county player-of-the-year honors.
"I remember looking at the Wall of Fame (in the hallway outside Falcon
Gymnasium) one day," she said. "Someone walked by and asked me what I was
doing. I simply replied, 'Making goals.' Funny, I received all my local and
state recognition the following year."
Her senior year was one filled with special memories, including selection as
the NEC Player of the Year. Several memories came against NEC opponents.
"We were playing Ashtabula at Ashtabula, and we were down by two points,"
Henslee said. "The crowd was going wild.
"I got the ball and put up a jump shot from the left-hand side. Little did I
know, Coach Holmes was telling me to call timeout. The crowd was so loud, I
didn't hear him. The ball went in, I was fouled, made the foul shot, and we
won the game by one point."
Another game against Edgewood is also well remembered.
"I had no points in the first half," Henslee said. "I came back in the
second half and scored 20 points."
Then there was the run in tournament play. The Falcons made their first trip
to the Division II regionals under Holmes. Their path was ended there by the
Champion Golden Flashes, led by future Kent State standout Tracy Lynn.
Ironically, Lynn, now Tracy Dawson, is a teacher at Jefferson Elementary
"My senior year, I thought we'd go to state," Henslee said. "I was very
disappointed then that we didn't go to state.
"Now I realize it was pretty amazing. I have a much deeper appreciation now
how much of an achievement that was. I'd have to say it was one of the top
five things that have happened in my life. It was a huge accomplishment."
The support those Falcons received in their community is also a fond memory,
especially one form of it.
"The boys cheerleaders!" Henslee said.
Heading off to Hiram, Henslee took a brief shot at the college game, but it
didn't last for long.
"My first year at Hiram I played, but I pulled a hamstring muscle and had to
sit out a big part of it," she said. "By the next season, my studies had
become a priority and I didn't go out.
"Looking back, I wish I would have stayed with basketball longer. I think I
would have if I could have balanced everything better. Now, I'd like to see
what I could have done."
After graduating from Hiram, she went to Virginia to find an employment in
1993 before returning home in 1994 to work at The Illuminating Company. She
eventually met her husband there before moving on to Millenium and, now,
"The rest is history," Henslee said.
Actually, Henslee didn't totally leave basketball, and athletics in general,
"In 1994-95, I decided to try and get into basketball officiating, so I took
Phil Garcia's class and got my referee's license," she said. "It was fun at
first, but then they put me in some boys games and I didn't like it as much.
"I was playing softball at the time, too. Finally, I just decided I had to
Once her children started coming along, some of her relatives tried to equip
them for a sports career.
"At my baby shower for Brittany, she received her Little Tykes basketball
hoop," Henslee said. "She was still in the womb! It was a gift from my Aunt
Marion and Uncle Bill, aka Auntie and Uncle Bull."
Her daughters both have shown signs of her athletic aptitude.
"My little one is in T-ball," Henslee said. "She's a bundle of energy.
"Both girls are in gymnastics with the Geneva Vikings. The youngest one is
the one who's more into athletics. My oldest is the one into academics."
Still, both girls share another athletic pursuit.
"Both of my daughters also ride dirt bikes, although not competitively,"
Henslee said. "They ride with the help of their dad."
The arrival and growth of her children has shown Henslee a need to develop a
different side of herself.
"I've always been sort of a perfectionist," Henslee said. "I've come to
accept my kids no matter what. I've also tried to instill in them to stick
to what they're doing, not to quit."
The lessons of basketball have also carried over into life on the job.
"I learned there's no I in team," Henslee said. "It has carried into work.
I've learned not to sweat the small stuff. I learned to try to always get
along. I definitely have learned to use what I learned in basketball."