November 6, 2013

Back home again: Lady Berries return from historic trip to China

Lady Berries return from historic trip to China

By Beau Wicker

---- — Logansport’s girls basketball team is back to work this week after returning home from its historic trip to China.

The Berries arrived home around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night after a week filled with sightseeing and visiting sister schools.

The Berries got rock-star treatment while in China. They stayed in four-star hotels and ate at fine restaurants.

“It was an amazing experience, something that most of us won’t see in a lifetime,” senior Samantha Kain said. “We all had a really good time. The people were very welcoming. They served us the best meals, we stayed in the best hotels. It was some of the best hospitality I’ve ever seen.”

The Berries were a hot item anywhere they went.

“They all came up to ask us for our autographs,” Kain said. “They had us sign on their hands, shirts, on any kind of piece of paper they could find. It was awesome. They constantly asked for pictures. When we stopped and took pictures as a group, we had tons of them flooding in trying to get pictures with us. It was an awesome experience.”

Senior Whitney Jennings wrote a daily journal for the Pharos-Tribune last week detailing the entire trip. She said overall the trip was amazing and that it was the people that made it the most special.

But she did note she wasn’t a huge fan of all of the food.

“It was different,” she said. “We have Chinese restaurants in America and it’s American Chinese food. Over there it’s a lot different than what we’re used to here.

“We ate very similar stuff for every meal. Towards the middle of the week we were like ‘we want pizza, we want some different foods’. But there was just different stuff that I would never think of eating. One meal there was jelly fish on the table and I was like, I’ve got stung by one of those once, I don’t think I want to eat it. Yeah, it was just different, some of the food.”

Jennings said she’s not usually a picky eater and added, “I tried a lot of things. I think we all tried things we would have never tried here.”

Jennings added she woke up at 3 a.m. Monday and couldn’t fall back asleep, making her first day back to school in over a week a long one.

Logansport athletic director Greg Fisher said he was also feeling the effects of the long trip half a world away on Tuesday.

“I’m not as tough as I thought I was,” Fisher said. “I don’t as a rule sleep a lot, but I’m tired. The girls have to be tired. Of course I’ve got a few years on them.”

It wasn’t the first time Fisher had taken a basketball team to China. In the summer of 1996 he took his Portage boys basketball team that included his son to Beijing to compete in a tournament.

He said there were similarities and differences from what he saw in China 17 years ago.

“The similarities were the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace. Those have not changed,” he said. “What has changed is Beijing, the transportation process, the building, the expansion, those things have changed dramatically.

“The streets were so much more accommodating than they were in the past. There were more motor bikes than there were bicycles and more cars than there were bicycles. That was the basic difference. The other difference was we were treated very, very well. We stayed in extremely nice places and the food in my opinion was outstanding.”

The Berries returned to the practice court for the first time as an entire group for the first time officially this season on Monday, while the rest of the state began a week earlier.

Logan coach Jerry Hoover said assistant coach Doug Jennings ran practices with the remaining players last week.

The players that made the trip to China included seniors Kain, Whitney Jennings and Katrina Neuendorf, sophomores Kennedy Curl, Shauntaya Jones, Deanna Shepard and Devyn Nacke and freshmen Madison Dalton, Brittany Bandy, Grace Boyd and Alexis Kessler.

The adult chaperones included Fisher, Hoover and his wife, Loretta, and parents Carol Jennings, Gina Curl and Emma Kessler.

The varsity players that did not get to make the trip included juniors Nakeya Penny, Sydney Bullard, Emily Prentice, Karli Armstrong and Kaddi Winter, an exchange student from Germany, and sophomore Monika Ness.

Hoover said the volleyball players didn’t get to go to China plus more underclassmen got to make the trip than upperclassmen because of future friendships in mind with sister-school Jinhua High School No. 1.

The Berries have a scrimmage at 6 p.m. Thursday at Northwestern with just three practices as a full team together.

The season opener at Lafayette Central Catholic next Tuesday has been postponed due to LCC’s volleyball team making this weekend’s state finals. No makeup date has been set yet. The Berries are now set to open at home next Friday, Nov. 15, against McCutcheon.

Jennings is set to sign to play at the University of Iowa next Wednesday.

The Berries are coming off a 25-2 season a year ago and won North Central Conference and sectional titles.

They return just three players with extensive varsity experience in Jennings, Penny and Bullard. But Jennings and Penny could be one of the top 1-2 punches in the state. Jennings is a Miss Basketball candidate who averaged 23.6 points and 7.8 assists per game a year ago, and Penny averaged 13.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game a year ago as a sophomore.

Hoover said the China trip was a great way to get the season started.

“It was an unbelievable experience for myself and the girls,” he said. “I don’t know what you can say in five days about a society that has been here for 5,000 years.

“The history in China goes back 5,000 years, as old as the Pyramids. They know about their history. Everyone knows about the different dynasties and emperors in those dynasties. They have knowledge about it and are very proud of it. We saw buildings 2,000, 3,000 years old. Magnificent structures. I tell you, the emperors lived pretty good.”

As did the Berries during their week-long stay in the country.