By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Caston’s girls basketball team entered Saturday’s game against Logansport with the 15th ranked scoring defense in the state, holding opponents to just 31 points per game.
But Whitney Jennings was simply unstoppable.
Jennings led the Berries to a 64-40 win over the Comets Saturday night in the Logansport Savings Bank Cass County Tournament final. It was the Berries’ eighth county title in the eight years it has been held in girls basketball.
Jennings hit the 31-point total by early in the fourth quarter herself. She finished with 35 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two steals in the contest. She was 16 of 28 from the field (57.1 percent).
“I think the No. 1 reason that we won was that Whitney Jennings played with tremendous energy at the start of the game and continued that throughout the game,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “There’s no way getting around it, she came ready to play and played with tremendous energy. Because of her energy we were able to win.”
The Berries (5-0) entered as the third highest scoring team in the state, averaging 79.3 ppg. Jennings credited the Comets (4-2) for holding them to more than 15 points under their average.
“They’re an athletic, physical team,” she said. “Their man-to-man is really good. We knew coming in it was going to be a battle. They’re tough.
“I think they have the potential to have a really great season.”
The Berries jumped out to a 19-7 lead in the first quarter after Jennings opened with 15 points in the game’s first six minutes.
But the Comets responded with an 8-2 run to get within 21-15 with 6:25 left in the half.
The Berries answered with a run of their own as Maddie Dalton and Kennedy Curl got into the scoring column and Sydney Bullard chipped in a couple baskets, and the Berries closed the half on a 12-0 run to lead 34-15 at the half. Jennings had 21 points and four assists by halftime.
Bullard continued her strong play in the third quarter, Nakeya Penny chipped in and Jennings had 29 points by the end of the third quarter as Logan led 51-26 after three. Mickayla Rans had eight of her team-high 12 points in the quarter for the Comets.
The Berries got a scare in the fourth quarter when Bullard left with an injury with 5:36 remaining and did not return. Hoover said she has a sprained ankle and expects her to be ready for Tuesday’s home game against Lafayette Jeff.
Caston outscored Logan 14-13 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m just really proud of the effort that they put forth tonight,” Caston coach Carl Davis said. “We had great intensity on the defensive end of the floor. We communicated really well. And they hit shots. Hats off to Logansport tonight. Obviously Whitney was just unbelievable tonight. I don’t know what she shot from the field but she didn’t miss very many times. She hit some tough shots. I thought defensively we were pretty strong early on. Offensively I thought we were pretty patient.”
The Comets showed a skill level that could make them a force to be reckoned with in Class A.
“Across the board I think our girls have really worked hard. They’ve put a lot of time in,” Davis said. “They deserve all the recognition for that because they’re the ones that put that time in.”
Hoover credited the Comets for their effort against the No. 7 ranked team in Class 4A.
“The coach is doing a good job, the girls did a good job and Anna Brown absolutely handed a lot of our folks their uniform right back to them because she really played well tonight,” he said.
Brown finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards and was named to the all-tournament team for the Comets. Marli Leazenby knocked home three 3-pointers in the game and finished with 10 points and was also named to the all-tourney team.
Penny finished with 13 points, five rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals and was named to the all-tourney team for Logan. Bullard added 12 points in 20 minutes of action and was named to the all-tourney team as well.
“I’m not disappointed with the way we played, but our defense ... we’re paying for China right now,” Hoover said. “We’re coming in there in the morning and shooting so we get more time to work on defense, but it isn’t what it’s been for the last five years. So we’ve just got tons of work to do on defense, that’s it.”
Cass 40, Pioneer 27
The Kings pulled away in the fourth quarter in the consolation game of the county tournament.
Ashton McClain hit a 3-point dagger with 2:15 remaining to give the Kings a 32-21 lead and they held on from there.
“It’s a win, we’ll take it. It was pretty ugly, it was pretty painful,” Cass coach Meranda Burnett said. “I’ve got to give it to Pioneer. They wanted it, they wanted that game. They played their hearts out, they’re well coached and it showed. We can’t come out flat. We’ve got to treat every opponent like they’re a team like Logansport or like they’re a team like Western. It just goes to show in high school girls basketball it just boils down to who wants to win, who is going to bring their A game every single night. Tonight we didn’t bring our A game and we squeaked a win out. Really, we squeaked it out and we got lucky.”
Maci Maupin led the Kings (4-4) with 18 points and was named to the all-tournament team. Olivia Collins chipped in seven.
“We go as Maci Maupin goes,” Burnett said. “If Maci plays well, we win. That’s how it works with point guards, with experienced, older point guards who can take control. So obviously without her play tonight we’re struggling.”
The Panthers (0-4) led 8-6 after one quarter. Cass grabbed a 20-14 lead at halftime and led 27-19 after three.
Abbie McKaig scored nine points and Kennedy Nies added six. Nies was named to the all-tournament team.
“It was a better effort all the way around,” Pioneer coach David McWherter said. “It was a better team effort and it was better execution, early on especially. We executed three or four of our first six or seven possessions to where we haven’t done that yet this year. So we’ve got to be very happy with that. The girls did a good job of getting the ball to Abbie and Kennedy early and kept doing it and kept doing it, and we knew they were going to do something to change that defensively. And we need to adjust. We need to be able to adjust. We’ve got to get better at that part of it.”