by Beau Wicker
It’s been awhile since Logansport has had a top 10 ranked team in any sport — until this week.
Logan’s girls basketball team is ranked No. 9 in this week’s ICGSA Class 4A poll after a dominating start to the season against some of the state’s top programs.
The Berries had the 16th-most votes in the preseason and the 12th most after Week 1 after they opened with a 53-point win over small-school power Lafayette Central Catholic, and then defeated McCutcheon, which had a great shot at the 4A state title last season, by 44 points. The Mavericks are dealing with heavy losses to graduation this season.
Logan moved into the top 10 this week after a 28-point win at Kokomo, which has been historically a tough place to play for Logan — or any team for that matter. The Wildkats are a three-time state champion.
The last time a Logan squad was ranked in the top 10 is believed to be when the football team was ranked No. 3 in Class 4A to end the 2005 season. The 2002 baseball team finished ranked No. 2 in Class 4A.
Hoover’s had some of his girls basketball teams at Logan receive votes in the Class 4A poll but not crack into the top 10 before this week.
Logan’s girls basketball team in 1997 finished ranked No. 14 back in the single-class days under then-coach J.T. Hubenthal. The Berries defeated Ruth Riley’s North Miami Warriors squad in Riley’s senior season to win a sectional title that year but were edged by No. 12 McCutcheon in regional play.
Logan is ranked No. 13 right now in the IBCA poll, which does not take into account class size.
The last time Hoover coached a state-ranked team was the 1978 Ben Davis boys team, which featured Indiana All-Star Randy Wittman, who went on to win a national title at Indiana and play in the NBA. He is currently the head coach of the Washington Wizards.
Hoover has been around Indiana high school basketball a long time and doesn’t put any stock in state rankings.
“No, I told the girls, and I had them repeat after me, ‘that a ranking plus 53 cents will get you a cup of coffee in a cheap restaurant,’” he said.
“The only thing we care about is the No. 1 at the end of the year.”
While it appears Hoover prefers his coffee on the cheap, his team this year is rich in talent.
Whitney Jennings is averaging 25.3 points and 9.8 assists through the first four games. Rachel Jennings is averaging 17.8 ppg, and Nakeya Penny adds 17.0 ppg and 10.0 rebounds per contest.
Kiley Victor (6.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Krista Kyyroenen (4.7 ppg), Seanna Redman (3.0 ppg) and Madyson Price (3.0) are other key members of the team.
The Berries have been a stingy team defensively, holding teams to 35.5 ppg, while at the same time they’ve been shooting the lights out on the other end of the court in averaging 77.5 ppg. Whitney Jennings is 10 of 19 from the 3-point line (52.6 percent) for the season, and Rachel Jennings is 14 of 32 (43.8 percent).
Each member of the main seven-player rotation is shooting at least 50 percent from 2-point range, led by Penny’s 66 percent shooting (31 of 47).
“We spend an awful lot of time on shooting, we just do,” Hoover said. “[Former UCLA basketball coach John] Wooden says that field-goal percentage is the single most important factor in the ballgame, so I agree with him.”
Shooting can be a lost art in today’s game, but not with these girls, who have worked with Hoover’s friend, former Purdue star Rick Mount, to help develop proper form and technique.
“The boys game, they’re dunking and finger-rolling and jacking it up and so forth. In the girls game they can’t play above the rim, so they’ve got to shoot, that’s the way it is,” Hoover said.
The Berries will have to have good marksmanship in upcoming games, with bigger opponents coming up in the regular-season schedule and in the tournament.
“We’ve got a bunch of those coming,” Hoover said.
Next up for the Berries is the Logansport Savings Bank Cass County Tournament, an event they’ve dominated in recent years. They face Cass at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday before the boys teams square off. The consolation and championship games of the girls event are next Saturday, following the boys games on Friday.
With Carmel added to the schedule beginning last season, and the Hall of Fame Tournament — which features four of the top teams in the state — added for this year, the Berries’ upcoming schedule has several challenges with varying styles of play. Also included among those challenges are North Central Conference games against Muncie Central and Anderson, and a game at Benton Central, a team that knocked off the Berries by 16 points in the Berry Bowl a year ago.
“The next two are the county tournament. We’ve had pretty good success in that,” Hoover said. “Then we’ve got Lafayette Jeff and Anderson, who is good at Anderson. Carmel’s in here on the 21st. Muncie Central is playing very well right now. They’ve got a freshman that is getting about 17, 18 points a game. So we’ve got our hands full.”