November 13, 2013

Jennings-led Berries have to overcome big losses to graduation

Jennings-led Berries have to overcome big losses to graduation

By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport’s girls basketball team finished last season ranked in the top 5 in Class 4A.

The Berries are starting this year right at No. 5 in the preseason Class 4A poll.

But considering the Berries have lost three starters and five of their top seven players to graduation, Logan coach Jerry Hoover certainly does not think his team is a top 5 team at this point.

“We’re not very good. I’ll just tell you right now that we’re not a team yet,” Hoover said. “I don’t know anything that we do well. I know we’ve got a very, very good player and I know we’ve got another player that’s pretty good. But we’re not ready to play a game. We’re just not very good, that’s all. I don’t lie to you about that. If we’ve got a decent team I’d tell you. But we’re just not ready to play a game right now, period.”

The Berries are led by Miss Basketball candidate Whitney Jennings, a 5-5 senior point guard who’s set to sign to play at Iowa today.

Jennings already has 1,778 career points and 498 career assists entering her senior season. She averaged 23.6 points, 7.8 assists, 4.2 steals and 4.5 rebounds per game as a junior.

An Indianapolis Star report on Tuesday said the Miss Basketball race seems to be wide open this year. The report said Jennings, Mt. Vernon’s Erica Moore (Purdue), Evansville Mater Dei’s Maura Muensterman (Indiana) and Homestead’s Sydney Buck (Butler) are the early front-runners. But there is room for other seniors to emerge, the report said.

Hoover has had a good look at all of the players mentioned and said Jennings is the best player in his opinion.

“She’s the best player in the state, she’s the smartest player in the state and she’s the fastest player in the state,” he said.

Nakeya Penny, a 5-10 forward, is back for her junior season. She averaged 13.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore and shot 50.5 percent from the field. She finished the season particularly strong, averaging 15.6 points per game in the Berries’ five tournament games.

Hoover thinks Penny is also one of the top players in the state.

“She’s probably in the top 30 in the state overall,” he said.

After the 1-2 punch of Jennings and Penny, the Berries have just one other player back from last year that saw varsity time in close games in 5-9 junior Sydney Bullard. She started the year last season on the JV but moved up to varsity after Seanna Redman tore her ACL about midway through. Bullard’s varsity minutes were sparse and she had 30 points and 45 rebounds on the season.

“She’s got a long way to go,” Hoover said. “Everybody else has just got to work at it. We’ve got to figure out who to play. I don’t even know about a starting lineup right now. I don’t know what our strengths are going to be. I don’t know what our weaknesses are going to be.

“I like them. I really like them. I think they’re trying hard. But we’re not able to guard anybody. We know that we’re going to see combination defenses. To prepare for a combination defense takes a lot of time and we’ve had four days since we got back from China. It’s just going to take awhile, that’s all.”

Samantha Kain and Katrina Neuendorf are the other two seniors on the team joining Jennings. Kain is a 5-9 post player and Neuendorf is a 5-8 defensive specialist.

The Berries have a 6-3 foreign exchange student this year on the team from Germany in Kaddi Winter who might start the year on JV.

Junior guards Emily Prentice and Karli Armstrong are in the mix for varsity time, and 5-9 sophomore guard Kennedy Curl and 5-8 freshman guard Madison Dalton are also on the varsity roster.

The Berries open the season at home on Friday night against McCutcheon. The Mavericks are hosing Class 4A, Sectional 7 this year.

“They’ve got everybody back,” Hoover said. “It’s been that way the last five or six years that either us or them win it. I would think it would be the same way this year.”

The Berries repeated as North Central Conference champions last year and have won 14 league games in a row. They won all seven NCC games last year by double digits.

But the league has been young the last two years and could be a more hotly contested race this year. The top opponent has been Anderson, which Logan had to erase a fourth-quarter deficit against last year in a win.

The Berries went 25-2 last season and advanced to the regional finals in Class 4A. They have to replace from graduation Rachel Jennings (14.6 ppg), one of the top shooters in the state who is now playing at Bethel, Kiley Victor (5.3, ppg, 8.0 rpg), the second leading rebounder in the NCC, Madyson Price (4.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who is playing softball at Ancilla, Redman (2.5 ppg), who is playing softball at Manchester, and Krysta Kyyroenen (2.2 ppg), who has returned to her native Finland.

Coming Thursday: Season previews for Cass, Caston, Pioneer and Winamac.