by Beau Wicker
Logansport was in position to possibly pull off an upset of Kokomo in boys basketball Thursday night at the Berry Bowl.
But the Wildkats made championship plays down the stretch. And they were able to pull away to a 58-46 win to secure at least a share of the North Central Conference title.
The Wildkats (17-2, 6-0 NCC) host second-place Richmond (14-5, 5-1) next Friday for a chance to win the league title outright. The Berries dropped to 9-8 and 2-4.
“The guys came out and beat a solid, aggressive, determined Logansport team,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “Obviously they played well and made it a battle, and we knew it was going to be that.”
The Berries pulled to within 47-44 midway through the fourth quarter after Jayson Higgins knocked down his second straight 3-pointer.
Tayler Persons answered with a putback basket and then drew a foul on a drive and hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 50-44 with 2:47 remaining.
During the sequence Antonio Penny and Andrew Wamsley each missed on good looks from 15 feet. The Wildkats got three tries on their next possession, and Hakim Burnett made the Berries pay by drawing a foul and knocking down both free throws. Burnett later scored on another drive with 1:20 to go to make it 54-44, and it was academic from there as Kokomo was able to hold on.
The bigger Wildkats outrebounded the Berries 29-18 for the game including 12-5 on the offensive glass.
“They were killing us [on the boards],” Logan coach Mark Victor said.
Said McCauley: “We really got back to rebounding the way we want to. ... We had 45 shots on the night, they had 40. So those five extra shots are significant.”
LaBradford Sebree had 15 points and five boards to lead the Kats. Persons finished with 13 points, Burnett had 12 points and five boards and Erik Bowen added 10 points and a game-high eight boards. Kylee Beheler chipped in four points and six rebounds.
“Persons was pretty good in the stretch down there. But I can’t fault our kids’ effort,” Victor said. “We came out and battled hard. We mixed up our lineup a little bit. I thought the guys that were in there played well. It just came down to a possession here or a possession there.
“I thought we did a great job of handling their pressure. I thought the kids really were into it as far as our game plan goes.”
Penny led the Berries with 14 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. Higgins had 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. Jacob Snow hit both of his 3-point attempts and finished with nine points. Alex Emmerd added six points and five boards.
“We put Wamsley and Emmerd in there, and I thought they did a nice job when we were playing our zone there,” Victor said. “Antonio played well. It was a good effort. We just couldn’t close the gap right there when we needed to right there at the end.
“I think our kids gained a little confidence and figured we can play with them a little bit.”
Persons scored right before the buzzer to give the Wildkats a 20-11 lead after one quarter. The Kats led as much as 32-19 in the first half before the Berries responded with a run. After Penny recorded a steal and dunk late in the half to make it an eight-point game, Brad Dockemeyer scored on a putback basket to give the Kats a 34-24 halftime lead. It was the Kats’ third straight score on a putback.
The Wildkats went cold to start the second half, and Higgins and Snow hit back-to-back 3-pointers to bring the Berries to within 42-36 after three quarters. The Berries got the lead all the way down to three points before the Kats had the answer late.
“We had to come out of our zone, and they hurt us at that point,” Victor said.
The Berries next travel to Winamac on Tuesday.