January 19, 2013

Berries smother Taylor, Red Devils in blowout win

No. 4 Logansport secures at least share of NCC title.

by Beau Wicker

— There were approximately 3,000 Berry fans in attendance for the Logansport girls basketball team’s home game against visiting Richmond Friday night.

And those fans saw the Class 4A No. 4 Berries put on a shock-and-awe campaign to take the Red Devils out of the game early. The Berries also smothered Richmond leading scorer Mackenzie Taylor and didn’t let the Red Devils get back into the game.

Logan recorded a 61-35 win to secure at least a share of the North Central Conference title. The Berries (17-1, 6-0 NCC) have now won 13 league games in a row after running the table last season. Richmond dropped to 9-10 and 2-4 in the NCC.

Logan’s 3-pointer sisters, Rachel and Whitney Jennings, knocked down three in a row to start the game to open a 9-3 lead in the game’s first two minutes. The Berries did not let up from there.

Whitney hit from 25 feet late in the first quarter and from 27 feet early in the second, and the rout was on. The Berries grabbed a 33-5 lead just 12 minutes into the contest. They led 39-15 at the half displaying excellent team basketball.

Meanwhile, the Berries’ box-and-one defense employed against Taylor was suffocating, and they held the sophomore guard to 10 points, all coming in the fourth quarter after Logan had grabbed a 52-17 lead after three. Taylor entered averaging 22.2 points per game.

Logan’s Kiley Victor and Whitney Jennings led the team effort against Taylor.

“Hey, I’ll talk about Kiley Victor. She shut down one of the leading scorers in the North Central Conference, and that girl did not get anything until what, four minutes to go in the game,” Hoover said. “I’ll tell you something else. Whitney Jennings played a great defensive basketball game. She kept people off balance on top. She really played a very, very good defensive basketball game.

“The two of them went together in the combination defense and shut down a very, very good player, probably an Indiana All-Star. Kiley Victor in addition to that gets 13 rebounds.”

Victor also just missed a double-double with nine points.

Whitney Jennings, a junior who eclipsed the 1,500 point mark last week, recorded 23 points, eight assists and five steals. Rachel Jennings scored 15 points. Nakeya Penny had seven points and seven rebounds. Krista Kyyroenen had five points which included a 3-pointer. Madyson Price added two points and six boards.

Alexis Davis was also in double figures for Richmond with 10 points. Brooklyn Taylor scored seven. Bailey Hillard added six points and six boards. Mackenzie Taylor also had five rebounds and three steals.

Whitney Jennings talked about her rapid ascent up the state’s career scoring leaderboard and mentioned passing her father, Doug, who scored 1,522 points at Argos and is the Dragons' all-time leading scorer in boys basketball.

"I passed my dad so that was pretty cool," she said, before crediting her teammates. “If I didn’t have the teammates around me that I do, I wouldn’t be able to score as much.

“I think our mindset coming in was we need to get better this game and every game leading up to the tournament. We’ve got about three weeks left, and we need to get better every day.

"It’s exciting that we’re having this year that we are and we’re just hoping to continue it as far as we can.”

Rachel Jennings said the Berries are focused on completing a second straight perfect campaign in NCC play.

“We really want that win, because the last time we were at New Castle we lost the conference at that game, so we really want that game real bad,” she said. “That was just a really bad time because we were so upset because we had played so well in the conference all year and that last game we weren’t there, we didn’t have our A game.”

Hoover noted Victor also helped shut down Benton Central star Cailyn Tolen. He said the Berries have had a good run of defensive aces at the front of their combination defense in recent years and mentioned Shannon Jennings and Jennifer Tierney, and he said to look for Katrina Neuendorf in the role next season.

Hoover also added another defensive ace, Seanna Redman, could be close to returning from a torn ACL injury with the use of a brace. He said her return would give him another sterling option to use in the box-and-one defense.

But with one of the top teams in the state this season with a very strong senior class, the Berries are focused on the now. They host South Bend St. Joseph (6-9) for a 2:30 p.m. matinée today. The Indians, a Class 3A regional finalist a year ago, recently got two starting guards back from injury and recorded a 20-point win at South Bend Clay on Thursday.

“They play the most physical basketball of any team we’ve seen. They just knock you down, hit you, a very, very physical basketball team,” Hoover said. “I wanted them on the schedule, because [athletic director Greg] Fisher asked me if I we would take St. Joe, and I said absolutely, because they play the kind of a game that we would see in the regional if we would play a Fort Wayne South or a Homestead or Carroll. They’re a very, very physical team, and we want to get ready for the tournament. I don’t know how we’ll do in the tournament, but we’ve got to make an attempt for these girls to do the best we can for them.”