by Beau Wicker
After several years of playing second fiddle in sectional play, Logansport’s girls basketball team finally broke through.
In a field consisting of old regional and semistate foes back in the single-class basketball days that the Berries have traditionally struggled against, they were able to completely turn the tables and dominate with this year’s once-in-lifetime type of team — the kind of team Logansport is known for producing every now and then.
Kokomo was able to keep it close through the first half of play in Saturday night’s final, but the Wildkats weren’t able to do so over the entirety of the game.
The Class 4A No. 4 Berries pulled away in the second half for a 58-36 win and were able to finally hoist the sectional trophy afterwards.
“It feels amazing,” senior guard Rachel Jennings said. “We’ve been here three times in a row and just haven’t quite gotten the win. To finally get the win, especially my senior year, it feels great.”
Added senior forward Kiley Victor: “After being in the championship game for three years since my freshman year, it’s an awesome feeling. It’s indescribable to actually win it.”
Kokomo’s girls basketball program has a lot of pride and that pride was on full display Saturday night for the three-time state champions.
The Wildkats (14-9) bottled up the high-octane Berries (24-1) and star guard Whitney Jennings in the first half as well as any team had all year. The Berries led just 23-21 at halftime and Whitney Jennings was held to two points on 0 of 2 shooting from the field.
But Whitney got the Berries going to start the second half to create some separation. She quickly hit a jumper in transition and followed with a 25-foot bomb to give Logan a 28-21 lead. Rachel Jennings followed with a 3-ball following a lucky bounce for the Berries to give them a 31-22 lead.
Jasmine Love answered with a trifecta for Kokomo, her fourth of the game, but four seconds later Whitney Jennings swished in a runner for the answer.
With seven seconds left in the third quarter, Kokomo’s Anastacia Kirby picked up her fourth foul of the game after having grabbed six offensive rebounds to that point. Whitney Jennings hit both free throws and Logan had a commanding 45-32 lead after three.
In the fourth quarter Logan went to a four corners offense and forced the Kats out of their zone. Nakeya Penny then scored seven straight points for the Berries, with the last field goal giving them a 52-34 lead with three minutes left to play.
“They do an outstanding job of extending out,” Kokomo coach Jason Snyder said. “In eight minutes to be able to hold onto the ball and extend the lead like that is something that’s very difficult to do. They have a great team and great guards to be able to do that. That made it very tough for us.”
Penny led the Berries with 24 points. The talented sophomore forward was 9 of 13 from the field.
“I just knew I had to come up big in the second half because we weren’t doing real well the first half,” said Penny, who poured in 14 points in the final two quarters. “We just worked around their defense and we scored a lot of buckets. So we did a good job.”
Whitney Jennings had 15 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals, which included a second half of 13 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
“We were frustrated only up a couple [at halftime], but we knew we were in good shape,” Whitney said. “We knew Kirby had a few fouls. Last year in the sectional I think we were down six at half to them. So we knew we were in good shape and we knew we were going to come out strong in the second half and try to put them away, which we did.
“In the second half I thought we came out with a lot more intensity and aggressiveness and really put it to them and built a lead.”
Rachel Jennings had 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. Kiley Victor added three points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Krista Kyyroenen scored five quick points early in the second quarter. Maddy Price added six rebounds and two assists.
Love led the Kats with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Kendra Ryker added seven points, and Alanis Jones added six. Kirby had six points and six boards but was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
“The game plan was to get Kirby in foul trouble, and I thought we executed that really well,” Victor said.
For the last several years in several sports in sectional play, the Berries have been able to get past Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Marion, McCutcheon and Harrison, but just not all of them in the same year. They have often been clipped in a sectional final by one of them — often a Top 10 team. The sectional title represents Logan’s first since 2007 in girls basketball and in all class sports.
“We won a sectional but we’re not content,” Whitney Jennings said. “We have high expectations and we’re seeing how far we can go.”
Logan faces No. 16 Fort Wayne Snider (20-3) at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the Kokomo Regional. No. 11 Fort Wayne South (21-3) and No. 10 Westfield (21-2) will meet in the noon semifinal. The final is set for 8 p.m.