February 5, 2013

No. 4 Berries face sectional nemesis McCutcheon

Shorter expected to return for Winamac at Hebron Sectional.

by Beau Wicker

— Logansport’s girls basketball team enjoyed a record breaking regular season this year.

The Berries (21-1) recorded their most ever wins in a regular season and enter the tournament with their highest ever ranking in the final state polls of the season.

The Berries are ranked No. 4 in both the Class 4A and IBCA polls. They were leapfrogged by Lawrence North (19-3) this week in the Class 4A poll, as the Wildcats play a tougher schedule. Columbus North (23-0) and Bedford North Lawrence (21-0) are ranked 1-2 in both polls.

“You’ve got to be happy with the season,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “But regular seasons aren’t particularly indicative of what happens in the first game of the sectional. The first game of the sectional is always the hardest. After you win one, well then you get going and start rolling.”

The Berries open sectional play at 6 p.m. tonight at the Berry Bowl against their sectional nemesis in recent years, McCutcheon (5-16). The Mavericks have defeated the Berries in three straight sectional finals.

But the Berries will have the big edge in tournament experience against the Mavericks tonight. In fact, the only McCutcheon player that played in last year’s sectional final is the team’s leading scorer this season in sophomore guard Kerstyn Lowery (13.1 points per game).

The Mavericks are sophomore heavy this season. Another one of their top players is sophomore Gabby Gary, who is shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range (36 of 92) on the year.

The Berries won at McCutcheon 79-35 in their second game of the season back on Nov. 9.

But Hoover said the Mavericks remain a dangerous opponent. They played No. 10-ranked Westfield to a 37-29 game a week ago Saturday. They then defeated a 14-win North Montgomery team, 46-37, last Tuesday.

“We’ll have our hands full with McCutcheon,” Hoover said. “I’ve seen them play three out of the last five games and we’ve got the tapes for three games on them. They’re playing a lot better than they were at the start of the year. It’s just like their coach [Jeff Knoy] said, he said if we just had a few more weeks, he said we’d be up to where we could play. They’re playing a lot better now.

“They’re bigger than we are. Right now everything boils down to field goal percentages, and right now their field goal percentage isn’t very good. But they had a girl hit seven 3s against Jeff, the same girl got three 3s against North Montgomery the other night. The left-hander got two 3s against us and has been hitting two 3s a game. Then they’re big. They’re going to be a problem for us on the boards.

“We need to get a good start in the game. We need to come out and play.”

The Berries are looking to win their first sectional title since 2007, which was Jasmine Penny’s freshman season. Penny is now a standout junior player at DePaul University.

The Berries enter as the big favorite, as they’re 5-0 against the field with the closest game being a 22-point win at Lafayette Jeff.

“I think all three games in the sectional that we play will be a heck of a lot closer than when we played them in the season, because all of the teams have improved,” Hoover said. “But I wouldn’t trade our team with anybody in this sectional. It’s just a matter of we’re coming out and playing right, that’s all.”

The Berries enter averaging 67 ppg, which is ninth in the state and fourth in Class 4A. Their average margin is plus-27.2 ppg, which is fifth in the state and tops in Class 4A.

Whitney Jennings averages 25.0 points, 8.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. Rachel Jennings is averaging 15.0 ppg and is shooting 46.3 percent from 3-point range. Nakeya Penny is averaging 13.2 ppg and 6.1 rpg, Kiley Victor is at 5.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg and Madyson Price adds 4.7 ppg.

Kokomo (12-8) faces Jeff (3-18) in tonight’s later game. The winner faces Marion (11-9) in the later game on Friday. The Logan-McCutcheon winner faces Harrison (8-13) in the 6 p.m. semifinal on Friday. The sectional final is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Hebron Sectional

Winamac (15-5) enters having lost three of its last six entering tonight’s 6:30 p.m. (EST) game against host Hebron (8-11).

It’s no coincidence that 5-10 junior standout Stephanie Shorter (17 ppg, 7 rpg) has been out during that time. Shorter broke her left non-shooting hand in a game at Knox on Jan. 12 while trying to take a charge.

Winamac coach Jeff Wagner expects Shorter to be back in lineup tonight.

“She’s got a soft support that goes on the back of the hand. It’s still tender. Each day it gets better, she gets more movement in it. We’ll have the right amount of practices in before the sectional and she’ll be ready to go,” Wagner said.

The Winamac coach said his team has missed Shorter’s 7 rebounds per game even more than the 17 ppg she produces.

“We’re letting too many shots go up and nobody following and nobody getting in there and rebounding. And that’s been the story since Shorter went down,” said Wagner, who expects Shorter to play well when she returns. “I think so, because she’s been shooting with the cast on and she’s been doing pretty well there.”

The defending sectional champion Warriors are also led by the backcourt trio of seniors Jessica Schramm and Whitney Hook and junior Bethany Brogdon.

Hebron started the season with four wins in a row but enters tonight having lost four in a row and seven of eight.

“They started out the season really good. Now they’ve leveled off a little bit,” Wagner said. “But they’re going to be on their home floor, and I’ve seen some of their games where they’re right up there with their opponent. They’re not getting blown out by anybody. It’ll be a good matchup. If we can get Shorter back in there a little bit, we’ll be a lot better off. It’ll help the team morale as far as that goes.

“It’ll be a tough game for us. It won’t be easy. We know that. We’ve got to go up there and get the job done.”

Wagner added he was hoping for a bye when the draw came out because of Shorter.

“I was really hoping for that Friday game, then I’d know she’d be ready for that. If we can get through the Tuesday game, then I know she’ll be a lot better for the Friday game,” he said.

Rochester (12-8) faces North Newton (9-11) in the later game tonight. The winner plays North Judson (12-8) in the later game on Friday. The Winamac-Hebron winner faces Boone Grove (15-6) in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal Friday. The final is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Wabash Sectional

Cass couldn’t have asked for a much better draw, as the four teams with winning records are all on the opposite side of the bracket.

The Kings (4-16) face Manchester (6-14) at 7 p.m. tonight. The Squires defeated the Kings 43-40 back on Nov. 26. The winner advances to play North Miami (4-16) at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Kings defeated the Warriors 41-20 on Jan. 9.

Wabash (14-6) faces No. 10-ranked Southwood (16-4) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by Oak Hill (14-6) vs. Northfield (15-5). The winners play in the later semifinal on Friday. The final is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Wabash is the four-time defending sectional champion.

Cass is led by junior point guard Maci Maupin and senior forwards Bre Robertson and Maddie Eurit.

North White Sectional

Caston and Pioneer are both in action tonight.

The Comets (11-9) face South Newton (2-18) at 6 o’clock, followed by Pioneer (5-15) vs. West Central (11-9).

The Caston-SN winner faces North White (7-14) at 6 p.m. Friday, and the Pioneer-WC winner faces Tri-County (11-10) in the later semifinal. The final is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Caston defeated South Newton 42-23 on Jan. 11. The Comets enter as a co-favorite to win the sectional title along with two-time defending champion West Central. The Comets are led by junior guards Ingrid Martinez and Marli Leazenby and junior forward Anna Brown. Martinez is a foreign exchange student from Mexico.

West Central is 5-0 against the field this season, which includes a 45-27 win over Pioneer on Jan. 18.

The Panthers are the only other team that has defeated Caston in the field other than West Central. The Panthers split with the Comets in their two games. The Panthers are led by senior forward Gabby Dunlap and junior forward Mati DeWitt.