March 4, 2014

Giants pull away from Berries at sectional

Logansport stays close for a half before Marion prevails

by Beau Wicker

KOKOMO — Logansport’s boys basketball team slowed and shortened the game down against 12th-ranked Marion and it worked wonders through the first half and start of the second.

But the Giants, led by Mr. Basketball candidate James Blackmon Jr., went on a big run in the third quarter and the Berries had to scrap their plan.

Marion pulled away for a 77-51 win Tuesday in the first game of the Class 4A Kokomo Sectional. The Giants (18-4) face Kokomo (14-7) Friday in a semifinal game. The Berries finish 12-8.

The Berries were within 29-24 at halftime and it was a 31-28 game after an Andrew Wamsley score off a feed by Matt Jennings a minute into the third quarter.

“It felt great at halftime. We were excited,” junior Carter Skaggs said. “We were down five to the second leading scoring team in the state, held them to 29. James Blackmon had 12 at halftime. You know, we were feeling good. We came out and played with them a little bit and then they just pulled away.”

Alec Turner, a certified Berry killer, hit a 3-pointer to get Marion’s big run started. The Berries missed on a couple of good looks from 3 and Marion was able to get its transition game going to pull ahead for a 10-point lead.

An A.J. Smith floater later cut the lead back to eight, but Reggie Jones answered with a second-chance basket. Blackmon got loose for a dunk and later drilled a 3 from the top of the key to give the Giants a 50-36 lead. Blackmon followed with an alley oop dunk to push the lead up to 16 with 2:00 left in the third. It was the kind of sequence Logan fans that root for IU can’t wait to see next year but did not want to see against their Berries.

Turner canned another 3 to give the Giants a 58-40 lead after three. The start of the fourth was more of the same as the Giants continued to run away.

“They beat us in transition where they knew they would,” Skaggs said. “We tried to hold the ball there, it worked great in the first half. But we took some quick shots in the second half. Nothing to lose, nothing to be ashamed of.”

Skaggs led the Berries with 27 points and seven rebounds. He was 3 of 6 from distance. Smith added six points, Alex Brink had five, Andrew Wamsley and Hunter DeHaven chipped in four apiece and Matt Jennings added three.

Blackmon led the Giants with 30 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was 3 of 7 from 3. Cor’nell Wingate added 10 points, Jones had nine and Turner and Vijay Blackmon added eight apiece.

The Berries turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter but their slow-down seemed to throw the Giants off. A Skaggs 3 and a Brink free throw had the Berries trailing just 9-4 after one.

Skaggs drilled a couple more 3s in the second quarter and was also able to get to the foul line some and the Berries played the Giants to a 20-20 draw in the second quarter to remain down five at the half.

“We were really sitting right where we wanted to be at halftime,” Logan coach Pat Skaggs said. “I thought our guys did a good job of following the game plan and trying to cut the game in half and spread the floor. We even got off to a decent start in the third quarter so I thought for 18, 19 minutes we were right where we needed to be. But unfortunately there in the third quarter I thought they sped us up just a little bit and we made some passes that got picked off and turned into layups.

“They’re an outstanding basketball team. They can score in various ways. They’re not the second leading scoring team in the state for nothing. Just there in the second half it looked like the first time we played them and we don’t have a chance in a game like that.”

But the Logan coach was happy with the progress his squad has made since a 98-64 loss at Marion on Jan. 17.

“Overall I thought our guys did a heck of a lot better than what we did the first time out and I was really pleased with the progress that we made just in the last week,” he said. “I thought Alex Brink really stepped up tonight and played well. I want to thank our three seniors for their effort and hustle this year, Andrew, Brad [Nies] and Travis [Palmer]. I sure wish those guys the best and appreciate what we did here in our first year.”

No. 7 Richmond won the North Central Conference title by beating Marion and Logan nearly was able to knock off Richmond during the regular season.

“It’s all about matchups,” Pat Skaggs said. “You can’t say one team’s better than another just how you did against them and so forth. If you think back to the Richmond game we had several guys shoot lights out that game. Tonight was definitely the last 10, 12 minutes of the game was not to our favor and it slowly got out of hand.”

But the future remains bright for the Berries, who against top competition this year often looked a year away.

“We feel like we really have some good young kids and we’re excited about our future,” Pat Skaggs said. “We’ll take a little time off here and then we’ll get back to work.”

Added Carter Skaggs, “We should be able to play with anybody next year.”