By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Logansport girls basketball coach Jerry Hoover knew McCutcheon would be a tough out in sectional play.
The Berries drew the Mavericks in the first round of the Class 4A Logansport Sectional Tuesday night.
In a matchup probably more befitting of a sectional final, the Berries were able to jump out to a big lead early and pull away late in a 60-49 win over the Mavericks.
As often is the case with Class 4A Sectional 7, it doesn’t get any easier for the Berries (20-2) the rest of the way, starting with Harrison at 8 p.m. on Friday night. McCutcheon finishes 11-11. Marion faces Kokomo in the earlier semifinal Friday.
“Al Rhodes says this over and over again, ‘You can’t win the tournament unless you win the first game,’” Hoover said. “We won the first game so now we get a chance to see what we can do the rest of the tournament.”
Whitney Jennings hit her second 3 of the game to end the first quarter to give the Berries a quick 17-4 lead. A Jennings score on a fastbreak to open the second quarter made it 19-4.
Hoover said of the Mavericks’ slow start: “I think again the crowd really helped us early because they didn’t shoot well to start with.
“Once they started shooting they shot pretty well. But we had a 10-point lead on them and that’s the way it ended up.”
The Mavericks heated up from 3 and quickly got themselves back in the game. They hit four trifectas in a row, two by Gabby Gary and two by Becca Spitnaliak and all of a sudden it was a 24-23 game with 2:15 left in the half.
“We had a great start. They have good shooters and they came back and they shot the ball well and they made a run on us,” Jennings said. “We knew they were a good team. We played them the first game of the year and they didn’t have [Kerstyn] Lowery, which she’s a great player, so we knew it was going to be a battle.”
Nakeya Penny answered with back-to-back 3s for the Berries and scored eight straight points to close the half to give the Berries a 32-23 lead at the break.
A Penny basket gave the Berries a 45-32 lead late in the third quarter. But they couldn’t put the Mavs away, as Katee Kurtz and Spitnaliak hit back-to-back 3s to close the quarter to make it 45-38 entering the fourth.
A Jennings basket in transition gave Logan a 50-43 lead with 4:40 left to play. Lowery answered with a long 3 to make it four-point game.
Sydney Bullard scored on an assist by Jennings to make it 53-46 with 2:40 left.
The Berries missed a couple front ends of one-and-ones to leave the door open, and a Spitnaliak jumper cut the lead to 53-49 with 1:30 remaining.
Jennings knocked down a pair in the one-and-bonus and seconds later hit two more free throws to push the lead up to 57-49 with 1:10 left. Following a Penny free throw, Jennings scored on a steal and layup with 20 seconds left for the final margin of victory. Jennings had two steals and a block in the final two minutes, and McCutcheon misfired on a pair of free throws and a 3-point attempt.
Jennings finished with 30 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals in the win. Penny had 22 points and five rebounds. Kennedy Curl had six points and six boards. Bullard had 12 rebounds to go with her big basket late.
“Syd, her rebounding was great,” Jennings said. “That’s what she does for this team. So we just need her to keep rebounding like she does.”
Added Hoover, “I thought Nakeya Penny really played well tonight. She didn’t shoot well from the free throw line (1 of 5) but she made some nice shots. She’s starting to become more aggressive. She’s more aggressive on the defensive boards and more aggressive driving to the basket. She played very well.
“Of course Whitney played her normally good game. Kennedy Curl gets six rebounds and a couple of big baskets, big baskets. [Madison] Dalton, hey, she got four rebounds, she defended her position pretty well. It’ll be a long time before she goes 0 for 8 from 3, I’ll tell you that. Sam [Kain], when she was in there boxed out and caused problems in there.”
Spitnaliak had 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Mavericks. Lowery had 14 points and four assists. Gary scored nine points.
Logan held its own on the boards against the taller Mavericks and forced 15 turnovers while committing just three.
The Berries made just 6 of 22 3-pointers (27.3 percent) and 12 of 24 from the foul line, so they had to sweat out a close win against a Mavericks team that didn’t have a single senior on its roster. McCutcheon made 10 of 26 from 3-point range (38.5 percent).
“I’m just glad to get by the first game,” Hoover said. “I’ve always felt that if you can just get that first game under your belt you can go ahead and maybe do something. We’ve got to have a couple good nights of practice and get ready for Harrison.”
The Berries had a hard-fought 59-45 win at Harrison back on Dec. 17.
w/ scorebox: Logansport 60, McCutcheon 49. Next: Berries face Harrison Friday.