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December 31, 2013

Ready to Rumble

Logansport, Pioneer set to compete at Region event

The Logansport girls and the Pioneer boys basketball teams are set to compete in the 15th annual NWI Times Region Roundball Rumble on New Year’s Day at the Hammond Civic Center.

The Class 4A No. 6-ranked Lady Berries (11-0) will face Gary West (6-2) at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday, while Pioneer’s boys squad (1-6) will face Class A No. 2 Kouts (6-0) at 8 p.m. EST.

The Logan girls defeated East Chicago Central 57-53 to win last year’s Region Roundball Rumble. Whitney Jennings scored 30 points and earned MVP honors in the Berries’ comeback victory.

Both Jennings and Logan coach Jerry Hoover got good pub in the NWI Times a year ago. The NWI Times is the state’s second largest newspaper after the Indianapolis Star, another paper that has featured Jennings, Logansport’s Miss Basketball candidate, in recent years.

The NWI Times even did a story last year about Hoover bringing in a 565-pound wrestling bear to fight Lake Central grappling coach Bob Komara during Hoover’s stint as the boys coach at Lake Central, which is certainly worth a Google search for Berries fans.

Jennings is now the North Central Conference’s all-time leading scorer after passing Richmond’s Lisa Shepherd during Saturday’s win over Western Boone in the Twin Lakes Holiday Tournament championship game. Jennings now has 2,169 career points 11 games into her senior season.

Shepherd was Miss Basketball in 1997 and was a high school All-American. She went on to play in the Final Four at Penn State, where she scored over 1,600 career points.

Other NCC girls players on the IHSAA’s all-time scoring list include Logansport’s very own Jasmine Penny, who earned Big East Player of the Week honors this week for DePaul, Kokomo’s Tiffany Longworth, Richmond’s Stacy Shepherd, Anderson’s Dana Wilkerson and Sarah Armington, Marion’s Gina Johnson and Lafayette Jeff’s Kelly Heath and Rachel Honegger.

Marion’s Trena Keys was also a Miss Basketball award winner.

“There have been so many great players in the NCC. It’s an honor,” Jennings said. “It’s a testament to my coaches, teammates and family. I would be nowhere without them.”

The NCC’s all-time leading scorer on the boys side is New Castle’s Steve Alford, who scored 2,116 points. Logansport’s Caleb Springer is third all-time in NCC boys history with 2,042 points, behind only Alford and Anderson’s Kojak Fuller. Although Marion’s Mr. Basketball candidate, James Blackmon Jr., is quickly moving up the list. Blackmon recently passed his father’s total of 1,897 points to become Marion’s all-time leading scorer, ahead of such stars such as Jay Edwards and current NBA star Zach Randolph.

Other NCC boys players on the IHSAA’s all-time scoring list include Muncie Central’s Ron Bonham, Richmond’s Woody Austin, Anderson’s Troy Lewis and Kokomo’s Jim Ligon.

NCC boys players that were selected as Mr. Basketball include Muncie Central’s Rick Jones and Bonham, Kokomo’s Tom Schwartz and Jimmie Rayl, Anderson’s Johnny Wilson, Roy Taylor, Lewis and Fuller, Lafayette Jeff’s Bob Masters and Dennis Brady, Marion’s Pat Klein, Muncie Central’s Tom Harold, Indianapolis Tech’s Joe Sexson, New Castle’s Kent Benson and Alford, Marion’s Edwards and Lyndon Jones and Richmond’s Austin.

Jennings, who was born and raised in Logansport, was just 2 years old when Springer was a senior in 1997. Many consider Springer the best ever Logansport boys player, with players such as Mark Lozier and Danny Farrell also in the discussion. Springer was known as a sort of poor man’s Damon Bailey in high school, a huge compliment considering Bailey is considered by many to be the greatest boys high school player of all time. Springer was very strong at 6-foot-4, had a good outside shot, a great midrange game and did a ton of damage in the post against high school opponents. He went on to score over 1,300 points at Division-II Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

Jennings, a 5-5 point guard, is averaging 35.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 5.9 steals per game for the Berries this season.

Gary West Side is led by a standout Dana Evans, one of the top freshman players in the Midwest, according to the NWI Times. Evans has been scoring consistently in double figures this season for the Cougars, and before playing her first high school basketball game already had been offered scholarships by Michigan State, Purdue and Cincinnati. The explosive Evans has been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Cougars, who are coached by Rodney Fisher, who is the third winningest coach in state history with 587 wins in 37 seasons. The Class 4A Cougars have had narrow losses at Class 4A South Bend Washington and Class 2A No. 2 Fort Wayne Canterbury this season.

“I’ve never seen her play but I’ve heard she’s really good,” Jennings said of Evans. “It’ll be a fun matchup.”

The Berries are coming off their second-ever title at the Twin Lakes Holiday Tournament, though they would have been the favorite last year when they competed at the Hall of Fame Tournament instead.

Nakeya Penny adds 17.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg for the Berries.

Pioneer boys coach Austin Cowley is pleased that his squad will be able to compete at the Rumble this year.

“Actually it’s been something in the works since last year,” he said. “Coach [Pat] Skaggs mentioned it at the awards banquet last year. Then at the Lafayette Jeff game, Clay Scott said it was up in the air. We didn’t get confirmation we were in it until a few weeks ago.

“It’ll be a great environment for us to get to go play at. It’ll be a learning opportunity. Kouts is obviously a very good opponent. They return three starters from the really good team they had last year. They’ve got a 6-7 kid, a 6-4 kid we saw on the JV last year and two really good guards. We’ll have our hands full, that’s for sure.”

The Mustangs boast four double-figure scorers: Jake Bekelya (19 ppg), Cody Nelson (15.3), Matt Stewart (12.5) and Dylan Bruce (10).

The Panthers are led in scoring by Caleb Kindley (11.5 ppg), Brad Biggs (10.3) and Sam Kiser (8.7).

“I’d like to think we’re getting better every game,” Cowley said. “We’ve had leads going into the fourth quarter our last couple games and haven’t been able to hold on. We do get Keith Nies back, and he’s going to help our scoring. We’re trying to get better at not turning the ball over. We’re trying to get the boys to play confident and relaxed and just compete.”

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