The Truth Staff
This past weekend, the sixth through eighth grade girls of the Toledo League of Champions ended their inaugural season with playoffs and championship game at Leverette Elementary School. The five-team basketball league, which helps to fill a void during the off season was a huge success considering it’s currently the only opportunity for girls of this age to continue their hoops dreams in the spring.
The league is the brainchild of Torri Blanchard, herself a former player – outstanding player at that during her years at Scott High School and, afterwards, at Urbana College – and now the mother of a young player, a fifth grader named Lila.
In April 2022, when Lila’s fourth grade season ended, Blanchard decided to look around and find a team, a league where Lila could play during the off-season.
Her search turned out to be a frustrating and ultimately disappointing experience.
“I tried to find a league for her for the summer – it was the exact opposite of what I expected,” recalls Blanchard. “I called all over. There was no place for young girls to play so I ended up working her out during that summer.”
There was really only one thing to do if Blanchard wanted her daughter and other young girls to be able to play ball during the off season and her godfather, George Rice, pointed her in that direction.
You need to start your own league, Rice told her. But Blanchard, whose busy life revolved around two young children and a full time and a part time job, didn’t feel quite up to that undertaking … not at first. But Rice offered to help and basketball has always been a family tradition with the Blanchards. Torri’s sister, Taria, herself a standout player during her school years, and her father Herbert (Coach Pete), along with extended family would be there to assist her.
Torri passed out flyers, sent email blasts and notified those in the Toledo area of her intentions “anywhere I thought girls in those demographics might be.”
So a league was formed this April, consisting of five teams of players at the seventh and eighth grade levels – the Toledo League of Champions. The five teams – The Toledo Skyy, Old West End Queens, Lady Bears, Lady Bratz, Home Girls – played a five-week schedule culminating in this past weekend’s playoffs and championship game.
The Old West End Queens, led by Most Valuable Player Honey Harper, defeated the Toledo Skyy in their Saturday noon match up.
Now that the spring season is complete, Torri hopes to continue into the summer with a series of three-on-three basketball tournaments – “to give girls a reason and the space to work on their game.
“This does matter,” says Blanchard. “These girls will turn into women and we will have created a bond that will last over the years. It’s limitless as to what they will become.”