by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
The Logansport Berries played perhaps their best defensive game of the year Friday night when the Muncie Central Bearcats came calling.
As a result the Berries halted a three-game skid and recorded their first North Central Conference win of the season with a 75-54 beatdown of the Bearcats.
It was Logan’s first win over Muncie Central in boys basketball in 15 years. It was also the first of hopefully many NCC wins of the Pat Skaggs era.
Freshman Matt Jennings scored 24 points to lead the Berries (9-4, 1-3 NCC), while A.J. Smith poured in 22 and Carter Skaggs added 16 in the win.
“I’m really pleased with the play of A.J. and Matt tonight,” coach Skaggs said. “I thought with the exception of maybe three or four bad shots over the course of the game, they let the game come to them and as a result they both finished with over 20 points for us.”
Another key for the Berries was their ability to score from the line. On the night Logansport made more free throws than Muncie attempted. The Berries were 15 if 24 from the stripe while the Bearcats went 6 of 9.
Logansport opened the game letting those in attendance know they were there to play. Smith had the hot hand early penetrating and hitting open layups as the Berries opened up an early first quarter lead. When Smith drained a long ball at the 2:42 mark Logan went up 15-9. Later at the :34 mark Andrew Wamsley put a shot up over the outstretched hands of 6-5 Jay’lin Barnes to up the score to 19-11. The Bearcats held the ball for the final shot but came up empty and the 19-11 score stood after one quarter of play.
Muncie opened the second frame going on a short 6-0 run to get them back in the game. A 3-ball by Marcus Dukes at the 4:50 mark tied things up at 22-22. The Berries kept their composure and kept attacking and took a 29-27 lead into the break.
The third quarter of the game may have been one of the Berries’ best quarters of the season. With the offense still on the attack and Jennings and Smith continuously breaking down Muncie’s defense, Logansport opened the frame on a 11-2 run to up the lead to 40-29. Following a Muncie timeout Smith made a steal at mid-court and hit the lay-up at 2:30 to give the Berries a 49-35 lead. Logan went on to take a 53-40 lead into the final quarter of play.
With the duo of Jennings and Smith continuing to cut up the Muncie defense the Berries started to pull away. Following a pair of freebies by Skaggs with 5:25 to go, Logansport just kept pulling away. By the 1:30 mark coach Skaggs had emptied his bench and the Berries went on for the 75-54 win.
“I thought this was a solid team effort. I think we really won this game tonight because of what we did on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in practice,” coach Skaggs said. “This was some of the best team defense that we’ve played all year and I am really proud of the first guy to the last guy on the bench. I thought they all did a good job tonight.”
The Berries travel to Kokomo on Thursday.