February 26, 2014

KITCHELL: Semi-state the crowning point of achievement


---- — Let’s pause for a moment from worrying about what will happen when the civil strife in Ukraine ends.

Let’s stop wondering what human rights are being violated in North Korea today.

Let’s stop contemplating the future of Syria for a few minutes.

Let’s forget about Chris Christie and his end of the George Washington “I cannot tell a lie” Bridge story.

Let’s concentrate for a moment on something that doesn’t get nearly the coverage nationally, but merits our attention for just a little while.

The Logansport High School Lady Berries could be going to the state finals. Sure, they won’t be favorites to win the state. Granted, they may not be favored Saturday to win their semi-state game against No. 4 Penn.

But just the fact they are 24-2 and in position to reach the summit of Indiana high school basketball is something to behold if you know anything about basketball in this state. You don’t luck your way into it. A referee’s call doesn’t get you there. Hard work, practice, skill, discipline, desire and coaching are about all you’ve got, along with an incredibly loyal fan base.

So to put what’s unfolding in proper perspective, let’s think about this:

1. If they win Saturday, the Lady Berries will be the first Logansport boys or girls team to reach the state finals since 1961 — 53 years ago.

2. The fact that they have reached the semi-state is somewhat phenomenal in that they disposed of the best girls team Fort Wayne had to offer and one of the best the Indianapolis area had to offer in the same day like Sherman marching through Georgia.

3. While Logansport and Fishers are in the same enrollment class, the Fishers enrollment is double Logansport’s.

4. Yes, Logansport’s Whitney Jennings and Nakeya Penny combined for 68 points in one game. If that’s not an Indiana record, how often has that happened in this state for girls -- or boys. Makes you wonder who wins at “horse” when Whitney is in the driveway with her dad. He was a member of that storybook Argos team that made the Final Four in Milan-like fashion after beating Marion and winning the Fort Wayne Semi-state.

5. When you compare what the girls are doing this year to what previous Logansport boys teams have done in reaching the semi-state, remember that most of Logansport’s appearances beyond the regional level happened before consolidation in the 1960s when Logansport feasted on smaller schools at the regional level. What the girls are doing this year for Coach Jerry Hoover has a greater degree of difficulty, and I would hazard to guess that every school they’ve played in the tournament so far is larger than LHS.

6. The girls’ winning percentage right now is better than Logansport’s only state championship basketball team in 1934 when the Berries were 26-4.

7. Jennings, Logansport’s University of Iowa-bound all-time scoring leader, will be playing in the McDonald’s All-American game which is the cream of the creme brulee of high school basketball not only in this country, but the world. Even triple teaming her last weekend wasn’t a good idea. Will a box-and-one with four players around Jennings be in store?

8. This is the closest any Logansport area girls team has been to a state title in any class since Rochester claimed its first title a decade ago.

Think about all those things collectively if you’re even remotely interested in how Logansport will do against another Goliath among Indiana high schools Saturday and you have to think there’s a better reason for you to visit Crown Point this weekend than looking for the jail where the notorious John Dillinger escaped using a phony gun.

Then realize what Logansport’s girls team is gunning for is very real and they can’t have done much more to deserve their place in this tournament than what they have.

To paraphrase a Frank Sinatra standard, “That’s why the ladies could be champs.”

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at