By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — CARMEL — All week this week Logansport’s girls basketball team has allowed opponents to keep hanging around and keep hanging around.
It finally came back to bite them, as the Berries were handed a 63-59 defeat at Carmel on Saturday.
The loss drops the Class 4A No. 8 Berries to 14-2 on the season. The Greyhounds improved to 7-8.
“It could have gone either way,” LHS coach Jerry Hoover said. “I honestly thought we were going to get them but we missed a couple shots that we needed to knock down and that’s it.”
Carmel could thank Marion for the assist. The Giants gave the Berries’ a strong upset bid the Friday night and played 84-feet pressure defense for 32 minutes. The Berries had a quick turnaround with another road game Saturday afternoon and it appeared they had tired legs as they shot just 3 of 19 from 3-point range. It was similar to their loss to Gary West which at the time was their fourth game in six days over the holidays. But rigorous schedules like the Berries have faced can make teams stronger in the end.
The good news was that Nakeya Penny bounced back from an off shooting night at Marion with one of her best games of the season. She had 28 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and 10 of 11 shooting from the foul line. She added seven rebounds and a block.
Penny did most of her damage around the basket as she found holes in Carmel’s zone defense and Whitney Jennings was able to find her. Penny was also the only Berry that shot OK from behind the arc as she was 2 of 5 from there.
Jennings was not as sharp as she was the night before at Marion. She still managed 18 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. She hit a number of tough pull-up shots and heated up after a slow start but could not find the range from distance as she went 0 of 6 beyond the arc. She was 6 of 14 from 2 and 10 of 11 from the foul line.
It was still a milestone weekend for Jennings. She is now the 10th all-time leading scorer in state history in girls basketball with 2,304 career points. She also moved into the top five in career assists Saturday, passing the great Skylar Diggins in the process. Jennings now has 606 career assists.
The quick turnaround the Berries faced with two games on the road may be even tougher than playing two games in one day, Jennings said.
“Yeah, I’m a little tired but I’m not going to put excuses on that,” she said. “They had a good game plan coming in. They stopped my penetration up top. Nakeya had a big game with bringing three out, they left two inside and so she handled that pretty well. But overall we’ve just got to play better as a team and we didn’t.”
Madison Dalton added five points and was 1 of 7 from 3. Syd Bullard and Kennedy Curl chipped in four points apiece.
The Berries trailed 39-31 early in the third quarter when they went on a 14-0 run to take a 45-39 lead. Curl had a nifty three-point play during the run. But the Berries could not keep the momentum and it was a 48-48 game after three.
The Berries took a 53-50 lead on a Dalton 3-pointer with 5:30 left in the game.
But the Berries finished the game with a season-high 16 turnovers. They had four in the final five minutes that were unforced.
Jennings hit a jumper in the corner to give Logan a 55-52 lead with 3:05 left. Carmel scored six straight from there to take a 58-55 lead. Penny got the ball on the right wing in the final minute. She could have stepped back for 3 to tie the game but instead took a dribble forward and her 17-footer was just short.
Amanda Shaw, who led the Greyhounds with 29 points, hit 3 of 4 free throws and scored on a fast break to seal the win for the Hounds.
Carrie Larson was also in double figures with 13 points for Carmel. She was 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Logan box-and-oned Emily Kmec and held her to six points. She did hit two free throws in the closing minute.
Carmel outrebounded Logan 37-24 to overcome committing 20 turnovers.
Logan had defeated Carmel — the state’s largest school with an enrollment of over 4,800 students — the previous two seasons in the Berry Bowl.
“It’s a great win,” Carmel coach Scott Bowen said. “We have been talking all year, especially for this group, to kind of get over the hump and beat a team that people are probably not projecting us to beat. To win a game you’re not supposed to win is big. It’s big for momentum heading into the sectional time of year. Just giving our kids the feeling and satisfaction that they can do it is the biggest thing hopefully for our mental aspect.
“Hopefully we can build on this and move on, because that’s a special player in my opinion. That’s Miss Basketball. Our kids carried out a game plan. There’s no way you can stop Whitney or Penny. We at least kind of contained them and gave ourselves a chance to win the game and closed it out when we needed to. So I’m very proud of our group.”
The Berries need to do the little things better to close out wins and not allow opponents to stay in the game. They can be a dangerous team in the tournament if Jennings and Penny are on and their role players do the little things better. They look to be the favorite at the upcoming McCutcheon Sectional but teams like Marion and Harrison have shown them that they are vulnerable.
Carmel competes in the North Central Sectional that feeds into the Kokomo Regional. Bowen, who won a state title with the Greyhounds in 2008, said their sectional field is wide open, as evidenced by No. 4 Westfield losing to Fishers by 17 points on Saturday. Carmel gave No. 6 Homestead a competitive game recently. Homestead will have to get past Fort Wayne South at its sectional, and Homestead just beat another sectional favorite that feeds into the regional, Fort Wayne Snider, by one point earlier this week. So the regional looks to be pretty wide open as well. Homestead looks like the early favorite. The sectional finals are about three weeks away.
“The bottom line is if we want to get anything done in the tournament or whatnot, it’s got to be a team effort and it can’t be two players,” Jennings said. “But they’re getting better and it’s frustrating to lose this one. Our main goal is we want to win conference again so we just need to get back at it next week and get ready for Richmond.”
The Berries travel to Richmond next Friday.