Lady Di was queen of the court The Legend of Diane Davis still very much alive and well
By KARL PETERSON Staff Writer
When Diane Davis was learning about basketball, she had to get her training by going up against the boys. Little did guys like Deora Marsh, her next-door neighbor on West 38th Street in Ashtabula, and her brother Roy realize, but they trained her so well that she became arguably the best player Ashtabula County has ever seen, male or female. They certainly helped make her into the greatest scoring machine Ashtabula County has ever seen. With 1,934 career points, Davis, now Diane Davis Corpening, is nearly 300 points ahead of her closest pursuer, Conneaut High School product Jessica Olmstead. And, unlike Olmstead, when Davis played from 1979-83, there was no three-point line and the girls used the same basketball as the boys. Had there been a three-point line during her playing days, she would have probably scored somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 points. Her total is more than 400 points higher than that of Ashtabula County's leading boys scorer, Conneaut's Matt Zappitelli. There has never been an offensive machine like Davis, before or since. For those reasons, Davis is part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation. She is one of just 11 individuals to be inducted at ceremonies Sunday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at the Conneaut Human Resources Center and one of just three females in that first class. Even Corpening finds it difficult to relate to the idea. "I'm blown away by it," she said from her home in Germany, where her husband, Robin, a career U.S. Army officer and sons, Ivan and Stefan, live on a military base. "Every time I talk about it, it seems strange. It's been like 20 years ago. It's all hard to believe." If it hadn't been for Roy Davis' willingness to have his little (Diane was only 5-foot-3) sister engage with he and his friends in games played on West 38th Street or at the outdoor courts at West Junior High School. "I probably started playing when I was 10. My brother used to take me along to play with his friends," Corpening said. "We used to nail a bicycle rim to a pole and play on the street. Later, we'd go up to the outdoor courts at West. We used to shoot around all the time. "The guys all accepted me playing," she said. "I used to play against guys like Deora Marsh (a standout at Ashtabula who is still playing professional basketball in Ireland). I think they realized I could play." Fortunately, her mother, Ruby, who still resides in Ashtabula, was willing to let her daughter go play with the boys, however reluctantly at first. "I had four brothers," Corpening said. "My mother didn't want me to be around the boys at first, but she let us play on the street near the house. Gradually, she let us ease our way up to the court at West. I give credit to Roy for helping me get there." Because she was playing, comparatively speaking, among the trees, Corpening quickly learned she had to hone her outside shooting and getting shots off quickly. She found out how to manuever in heavy traffic, too. "A major part of my game was shooting from outside," she said. "I had to learn to shoot from out there." 1/25/2018 TheACBF.com - Hall of Fame Archives 2/2 It wasn't long before Corpening wasn't the only girl involved in the games on the outdoor courts. It helped that several of them were her cousins - Rosalyn Hunt, Angie Thompson and Beverly Wells. They all learned the game together. There was no real formal training for any of the girls. "I think the game came naturally to be," Corpening said. "I never had any formal training. I never went to basketball camps like they do now." By the time they got into seventh grade, they were joined by Sherri Lyons, who took on the off-guard duties, and Eleanor Young, who would become their center and jined Davis as a 1,000-point scorer. Sherry Cooley, now the principal at West, was their coach in seventh grade, while Louise Poynton directed the team in eighth grade. When they got to Ashtabula High School, they came under the tutelage of Dominick Cavalancia. He, like Cooley and Poynton before him, realized the gifts the girls, especially Corpening, possessed. "They always wanted me to shoot the ball," she said. "I wanted to pass the ball and get more of the girls involved, but they always wanted me to take the shot." Many opponents probably unestimated her when they played her the first time. With her small size, big, black-rimmed glasses and an even bigger smile, it was easy to do. Once the game started, though, they found out she was a gentle assassin. It all worked, so well in fact, that the Panthers eventually got to the Division II regional tournament at Massillon Perry High School in her junior year, thanks to Corpening's 50-point night against Warren JFK in the district championship game. That was thought for many years to be the single-game scoring record among Ashtabula County girls until Star Beacon Sports Editor Don McCormack discovered that Harbor's Florence Carey, another of the ACBF's initial Hall of Fame class, scored 52 points in a game in 1924. That trip to the Sweet 16 ranks as Corpening's career highlight. She feels it might have been better, though. "If Sherri had stayed past her freshman year, I think we might have made it to state at some time," she said. The Panther girls of Corpening's career had more going for them than basketball ability. "I think we knew each other so well," she said. "We played together during the offseason and we did a lot of other things together than just play basketball. It helped that a bunch of us were cousins. I think we got along very well together." Corpening, of course, went on to the greatest degree of recognition. She earned United Press International Division II Player of the Year honors her senior year and earned a scholarship to Ohio State. But college basketball never quite worked out for her. One of the first area girls athletes to earn a scholarship, she is nonetheless impressed at the opportunities afforded to female athletes now. "I think girls have so many more opportunities," Corpening said. "I think things like the WNBA has made it possible." Corpening doesn't dwell on her achievements on the court, but her sons and husband are aware of her accomplishments. They have expressed pride in her selection to the Hall of Fame, but also hand out doses of humility. "I've shown them my scrapbooks and they tell other people what I've done," she said. "My husband said I was a big gun." Ivan, a junior, has much in common with his mother. Basketball is his passion, but like her, he is smaller in stature at just 5-5. "He loves basketball. He's a guard, just like me." Freshman Stefan's passions run more toward track. He's trying to shake off the affects of a serious car crash he and his father suffered back in December. Although she doesn't get out of the court much anymore because of her demands at the base commissary, she teaches her boys a thing or two. "I still show them a move or two," she chuckled.