by Beau Wicker
The Twin Lakes girls basketball holiday tournament provides teams a huge midseason test that includes having to play three games in two days against challenging competition.
The Logansport Lady Berries had to run a gauntlet this weekend, facing games against Evansville Memorial, Class 3A No. 6 Western and Class 3A No. 5 Western Boone.
The Class 4A No. 6 Berries passed the test with flying colors, securing their second Twin Lakes Holiday Tournament championship in the 12 years they have competed in it.
The Berries secured the title with a hard-fought 69-60 win over Western Boone in the final on Saturday night. Their other title came in 2009-10 during Jasmine Penny’s senior campaign.
This year is Whitney Jennings’ senior season, and she and her teammates made sure they would bring home the title by making the big plays down the stretch against Western Boone.
Jennings finished with 37 points in the contest and in the process passed Richmond’s Lisa Shepherd as the all-time leading scorer in the North Central Conference, long known as one of the best basketball conference’s in the state. Jennings now has 2,169 points and is 16th all-time in state history in girls basketball.
She added 10 rebounds, eight assists and six steals in the win. She was a perfect 14 of 14 from the foul line and the Berries were 21 of 23 as a team.
“That was a good win for us,” Jennings said. “I watched Jasmine win this her senior year when I was in eighth grade, so I always wanted to win one and I’m glad it’s my senior year.”
Nakeya Penny, Jasmine’s younger sister, added 18 points and eight rebounds. She was limited to 26 minutes due to some foul trouble but she came up big down the stretch like the rest of her team.
One key sequence was when the Berries (11-0) led 61-56 with less than two minutes left to play. Penny came up with a block on a 3-pointer, Maddie Dalton blocked a shot and then Jennings completed the stop with a steal and was quickly fouled and hit the two free throws.
Emily Harrison, who led the Stars (12-1) with 24 points and nine boards, came up with a putback basket to cut the lead back to 5 with 1:20 remaining.
Jennings found Penny for a three-point play seven seconds later to push the lead up to 66-58 and foul out Harrison, a Division I recruit in volleyball to SIU-Edwardsville, in the process.
Rachel Ramey hit a long 2-pointer for the Stars before Penny and Jennings combined to hit 3 of 4 free throws to close out the victory.
Jennings, Penny and Syd Bullard, who had four points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks, were named to the all-tourney team. Bullard also had several deflections that led to steals for her teammates after the Berries made a halftime adjustment to front and double team Harrison in the post.
Dalton chipped in five points, four rebounds and two blocks for Logan.
BayLee Mitchell had 16 points and hit 3 of 5 from 3-point range for WeBo. Ramey added eight points.
The Stars led most of the first half before the Berries came back to tie the game at 28-all at halftime. Penny and Dalton hit 3-pointers to help the Berries get some separation in the third quarter. Bullard added four points in the quarter including a 15-foot jumper to make it 49-40 entering the fourth.
Jennings had 29 points after three which included a crowd-pleasing spin move in the lane and finish with her left hand and later a left-handed scoop shot on a drive.
The Berries led by as much as 11 in the fourth but could not seem to put the pesky Stars away until the closing minutes.
“Western Boone’s a really good team,” Jennings said. “We just played hard the whole entire game and that’s definitely something that’s going to help us down the stretch in close games. It’s a great tournament.
“Everyone stepped up, everyone has a role on this team and they all played extremely well. I’m just very happy to be able to win this.”
When Logan last won the tournament four years ago, coach Jerry Hoover was on a scouting trip to Huntington North because he was ejected for drawing two technical fouls during the semifinal against Evansville Memorial, the only time he said he has been ejected from a game in his long coaching career. So Saturday he was finally able to celebrate a title with his team at his hometown of Monticello, the place where he still resides.
“The last one we won here they threw me out and then I had to write letters of apology to everybody in northern Indiana,” he said. “It’s a little different.”
Hoover is pleased with how his team is coming along midway through the season.
“We’ve really got some unsung heroes,” he said. “Kennedy Curl came in and fronted the post person and kept her in check for about a quarter, and that quarter is what turned the game around. I tell you, Syd Bullard is getting better all the time. She’s really starting to play. She got some big rebounds and blocks and knocking loose balls around and so forth, playing pretty good.”
The Berries face Gary West (6-2) at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday for the Region Roundball Rumble at the Hammond Civic Center.