By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — MARION — If Friday night was a night to showcase two of the state’s brightest stars — Logansport’s Whitney Jennings and Marion’s James Blackmon Jr. — it certainly could have been deemed a success.
But after his Logansport Berries boys team was demolished by Blackmon’s Marion Giants 98-64, LHS coach Pat Skaggs was in no mood to look at the bright side of things. He expected his squad to compete much better than it did and was certainly not pleased with the final result.
“They’re a great team, but I don’t think they’re 40 points better than us,” Skaggs said. “Obviously I was looking for a better performance from our guys. The effort wasn’t there, the intensity wasn’t there, you name it. We looked timid and scared.”
Skaggs even wished he could give the many Berry fans that made the trip over to Marion a rebate.
“We had such a great fan section and crowd come over here tonight. I’d like to thank them. Unfortunately they had to watch that. I guess I’m thankful that Marion let our season ticket holders get in for free or I feel like I’d have to give them $5 each for driving over here,” he said.
At least the Berries (8-2, 0-2 North Central Conference) will be able to tell their grandkids that they played against Blackmon in front of a packed house at Bill Green Arena. There were 6,000 to 7,000 fans in attendance, with at least a couple grand from Logansport.
Blackmon has IU fans abuzz with how well he can shoot the ball. Many consider him the top player in the state. He missed the Giants’ previous game with a knee injury and it showed, as they had a hard-fought win over Class 2A Oak Hill.
But he was back Friday night and didn’t disappoint, as he shot 14 of 21 from the field including 5 of 9 from 3-point range en route to a game-high 40 points. He entered averaging 35.6 ppg.
And it wasn’t just Blackmon who was lights out, as teammate Alec Turner, who missed four games to injury earlier in the season, was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc and scored 22. He had 17 at halftime as the Giants built a 52-25 lead at the break.
“I knew coming in that we really needed to force them to shoot 3s,” Skaggs said. “Yeah, I would have liked to have had a better hand up. We weren’t a step slow tonight, we were five steps behind.
“It wasn’t until the end ... I thought Alex Brink, I thought that was maybe his best game. I thought he got on the floor and got after it a little bit. I didn’t think he was scared to get physical. I’m not sure some other guys weren’t a little timid and we still have a bunch of guys that want to end up playing on the perimeter. I’ll be the first to criticize my own kid [Carter Skaggs]. He needs to go inside more himself. [Andrew] Wamsley’s got to screen and be inside all the time. It was a combination of things and obviously they are state ranked for a reason. They’re a really good team, obviously a tall task for us. But I’m very disappointed with our effort tonight.”
The Giants led 83-40 after three quarters of play. They pulled their starters with 6:36 to go with an 85-46 lead but reinserted them when it was 89-53 with 4:12 left. Blackmon had a dunk and two free throws for his curtain call before leaving the game again.
“They’re a solid team, but to me there’s no excuse to perform that poorly,” Skaggs said. “I’m not talking about every kid on the team. I thought some kids came off the bench and hustled and played hard.
“One, we can’t come out and play racehorse basketball with a team of this caliber. I mean as bad as our defense was, I thought that was our main problem early. It was 25-10 the first quarter and I thought we had too quick of shots. I think we forgot about how we started the game against McCutcheon. We made some of those shots, but there were several trips early where we came down and made several passes and got the tempo into our liking.
“I think our guys thought that maybe we could come out and beat Marion 85-80 and obviously we can’t beat too many teams that way, especially a team with the caliber of athletes that these guys have.”
The Giants were expected to be state championship contenders with the arrival of the Blackmons and they certainly looked like it on Friday night. They at least reestablished themselves as the big favorite to win the upcoming Kokomo Sectional. They beat Kokomo by 24 on Dec. 20 at Memorial Gym.
Wamsley and Carter Skaggs each had 14 points to lead the Berries. Matt Jennings was also in double figures with 10. Brink had eight, Jalen Adaway scored six and Palmer added five.
Vijay Blackmon added 12 points and Reggie Jones had 11 for the Giants.
James Blackmon Jr. surpassed the 2,000 point career milestone Saturday night in a win over Mississinewa.
Logan hosts Richmond next Friday.