Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation

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Lori Korver

By CHRIS LARICK
It had to be tough for Lori Korver to wait patiently while other girls' numbers were called to enter the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation's Hall of Fame.
That's not meant to quibble about the qualifications of the females that preceded Korver into that august body.
But Korver's qualifications for the honor in the very early stages of the ACBF (which goes back to 2003) should have been obvious to those who witnessed her feats on the court.
Korver, was, simply put, one of the best, if not THE best, players in Ashtabula County during the early years of girls basketball. 
Perhaps more importantly, Korver was truly a pioneer in the development of women's basketball in this county.
If Pymatuning Valley was the first county high school to offer girls basketball as a team sport (as it did in 1972), Geneva was hot on its heels, beginning its first teams in 1973.
Some schools did offer one version of basketball back in the early 1900s. But that version of the sport had such eccentric rules (players were restricted to one area of the court, for example) that, except for the ball and the baskets, it didn't even look like the male version.
Girls like Lori Korver, who will finally be inducted into the ACBF Hall of Fame on April 3, grew up playing the male version against males (and a few other females). She wanted to play on a school team.
"In the eighth grade my physical education teacher was Sally Toukonen," Korver said. "Every day I badgered her to get a girls basketball team together.
"She finally caved in and we got a team. We had an eighth and ninth grade team (in 1973), That was the beginning of the Geneva High School girls basketball team."
Of her eighth-grade team, only Korver and Mickey Radabaugh continued the sport after that first year. There were few other teams to play — Pymatuning Valley, Madison, Perry and Ledgemont also had squads –so the Eagles played only eight to 10 games those first couple of years. 
Her freshman year Korver divided time between the junior varsity and varsity teams, since players could play only four quarters a night at that time. It is just possible that she was the best player on either team. 
"Our JVs were undefeated," she said. "I started a lot of varsity games. The seniors didn't like that."
Among the other players on the team were Kim Korver (Lori's cousin), Vicki Brown, Tammy Morrison, Cyndy Carter and Tina Scoville.
"We didn't play many varsity games," Korver said. "Five (other) teams (Harbor, Ashtabula, Conneaut, Edgewood and St. John), 12 games (Geneva went 11-1). But we won the NEC."
Unlike her other years, Korver doesn't have a complete record of those games. In the ones she does have, she scored 69 points. With her 234 points as a sophomore (17-point average), 287 as a junior and 340 as a senior, she totaled 934 points, plus as many as she scored in the games she doesn't have a record of. She would like to find box score of those missing contests, since it would take just 66 more points to get to 1,000.
A long-range scorer, she would have reached that total anyway had there been a three-point line in effect during her years. But there wasn't. Moreover, the small number of games (10 as a freshman, 12 as a sophomore, etc.) made it vastly more difficult for her to reach that plateau. 
In Korver's sophomore year, Riverside joined the NEC, so there were two more games. In addition to Korver, the Eagle team of that year included players like Pam Hunt, Jenny Dix and Ellen Beitel, a junior. 
"You don't win without a team," Korver said.
In the sectionals Geneva beat Conneaut by one point, but then ran into its nemesis, Eastlake North. Korver was selected MVP of the league, her first of three such honors. 
By her junior year, Anita Tersigni, already in the ACBF Hall of Fame, joined the team, giving the Eagles more height (Korver was just 5-9 1/2 or 5-10, though Beitel was taller). Geneva also had Lily Matic, Jill Gresham, Liz Jessup, Becky Ritchie, Mickey Radabaugh, Connie Ball and Melanie Landon.
The Eagles went 11-1 again, edging Madison out for the league championship after beating the Blue Streaks, 56-48.
Again, they were ousted in the tournament by Eastake North.
"We always got beat by Eastlake North," Korver said. "I made the all-tournament team." And, of course, she was the NEC's MVP again. 
At that time the girls basketball team at Geneva (and other places as well) took a back seat to the boys team in practice times.
"We had to struggle to get gym time," Korver said. "The boys always had the best times. We had to practice at 7 p.m."
Title IX, that great boon to girls' and women's sports, had been enacted in 1972, but it took years before equality was reached in the treatment the two genders received. It could be argued that it still hasn't been, considering that boys' games have, with few exceptions, been played on the plum time, Friday night.
"When Title IX came along, they gave us more time (in the gym)," Korver said.
By Korver's senior year Madison had lost some of its better players. Korver maintained her excellence, Tersigni was back to rebound and score and Jessup improved dramatically. Becky Rocco was effective and Nadine Cox, also an ABCF Hall of Famer was a freshman who didn't play too much, but was constantly improving. The Eagles once again claimed the NEC championship and this time won the sectional title, beating West Geauga, 40-27.
Of Korver, Geneva Free Press sports editor Rick Malinowski said, "Korver is a premier basketball player who should be ranked up there with anybody in the state.... She can shoot, pass, rebound and defend with anyone in the state."
She was once again the NEC's MVP.
Of her coach, Toukonen, who died a few years ago, Korver said, "She was a pioneer. She started the program, thank goodness. She enjoyed it and taught the fundamentals. She would read books (about coaching) and go to camps in the summer. She worked hard at it. Back then, she never had an assistant. She coached from the heart — push, push, push."
In those early years keeping accurate statistics was rare, so totals for rebounds, assists, blocked shots, etc. were either suspect or nonexistent. It isn't unlikely that efforts like her 14-rebound night against West Geauga were the norm for her, though. 
"Kids kept the stats and they didn't even know what an assist was," Korver said.
As a senior, Korver scored those 340 points, helping her earn honorable mention all-state honors. Also an excellent volleyball and softball player, she won the D.J. Caton award as Geneva's top senior female athlete. She was no slouch in the classroom, either, being selected to Geneva's National Honor Society.
College scholarships for high school female athletes were rare in those days, but the University of Florida showed an interest in Korver.
"My mom and I flew to Florida," Korver said. "They said they'd pay for it, but they didn't. I was the tallest one (at the tryouts), but they said they wanted 6-foot guards. And they didn't like the way I shot the ball."
So Korver went to college close to home, at Lakeland Community College, where she served as co-captain her two years there (1979-80 and 1980-81) and became two-time MVP.  She was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American twice and was the MVP of the state junior college tournament. A picture of her at Lakeland shows her palming a basketball in each hand. Those were regular men's basketballs, by the way; the smaller-size balls used today didn't exist.
After taking her baccalaureate degree at Lakeland (where she also played volleyball and softball and was inducted into the Hall of Fame), Korver was offered a half-scholarship to Thiel College.
"I was too stubborn (to accept that)," she said. "I wanted to go as far as I could free. I should have gone to Thiel. If I could do it all over again, I would have done that. That's the one regret I have.
"Instead I got married."
The marriage lasted just three years. 
Korver went to work at Manor Home (a nursing home) and became Toukonen's JV coach at Geneva for five years, then continued that job under Jeff Pizon. She also served as Stan Beilech's assistant in volleyball for several years.
During that time, Korver had landed a job with ODOT (the Ohio Department of Transportation). When she was transferred to Dorset, she couldn't make the practice times, so she had to give up coaching. 
She has worked for ODOT for 28 years and is now a Highway Tech 3, working on construction and maintenance of the roads.
"I enjoy working there," she said. "I'm outside every day."
Korver attributes her athleticism to good genes.
"I got my athleticism from my dad (John Henry Korver)," she said. "He was a superstar athlete at Geneva in basketball, football and track. Kyle Korver (who is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, playing for the Atlanta Hawks), is a distant cousin."
A sister, Kathy, who was also a good athlete at Geneva, married Mark Debevc, the outstanding football player and track star at Geneva.
Korver's mother, Helen, passed away in 2014 at the age of 93.
"She was my number one fan," Korver said. "I dedicate this honor (induction into the ACBF Hall of Fame) to my mother. She supported me 200 percent, didn't miss a game of mine in high school or college."