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January 18, 2014

Jennings, Lady Berries pull out close win at Marion

MARION — Logansport wanted a big stage for its girls basketball game with Marion.

And Whitney Jennings showed just why she is such a great candidate for the Miss Basketball award.

Jennings had 35 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Berries to a 64-59 win over the Giants Friday in the first game of a girls-boys doubleheader that also included Marion Mr. Basketball candidate James Blackmon Jr.

The Logansport fan section at Bill Green Arena was filled for the girls game.

“This is what high school basketball is all about,” Jennings said. “It’s fun to play in front of that many people.

“It was a little closer than expected but they shot the ball well and they’re a good team, so I’m happy to get the win.”

Jennings showed unlimited range in knocking down four first-half 3-pointers and had 20 points by halftime as the Berries led 32-27 at the break.

Jennings and the Berries were coming off a cold shooting night against Benton Central so it was good for them to see the early shots falling.

“I was just kind of getting in a rhythm in the first half. I hit a couple 3s in a row there,” Jennings said. “They made some runs on us, but I was proud of my team. We kept our composure and we battled hard the whole game.”

Jennings put on a dribbling display down the stretch of the game that could have earned her a spot on Letterman. She dribbled past and around multiple Marion defenders and drew fouls to help the Berries hold their slim lead.

Does this girl ever get tired?

“No, I’ve gotten used to it,” she said. “I know it’s going to happen every game and I’m up for the challenge and ready for it.”

There was also an unlikely hero, as Karli Armstrong hit two free throws with 6.1 seconds left to give the Berries their 64-59 lead, in effect putting the game on ice.

“I thought she played a great game,” Jennings said. “She stepped up and hit those free throws and we had her in there pretty much the whole second half guarding their best player [Vironnica] Drake, so she played an outstanding game for us.”

Nakeya Penny also hit two big free throws to give the Berries a 58-54 lead with 1:41 left, and she spun in a left-handed layup in traffic with 50 seconds left gave the Berries a 61-57 advantage.

Penny fouled out with 41.8 seconds to go, taking away the Berries’ second-best player and ball-handler.

The Berries caught a break when Jennings was on the line with 29.6 seconds left with a 61-58 lead. Marion had a lane violation on her first free-throw attempt even though she had two attempts coming. She made them pay on the third attempt to make it a two-possession game.

Drake hit 1 of 2 free throws for the Giants to cut the lead to 3 before Jennings again broke the press and found Armstrong who knocked down the game-sealing free throws.

For the second straight game the Berries had chances to put away their opponent away earlier but couldn’t until the closing seconds. Logan coach Jerry Hoover said it could be good for them at the end of the season.

“You’ve got to be in a few games like that. We just had enough, barely enough, down the line to get it done,” he said.

The Giants (6-8, 1-3 North Central Conference) certainly didn’t play like a sub-.500 team. The Class 4A No. 8 Berries (14-1, 3-0) opened the game with a 7-0 lead and led by as much as 11 twice in the third quarter. But the Giants got as close as one point twice in the fourth quarter and it was a two-point game when Kennedy Curl came up with a steal that led to Penny’s two free throws with 1:41 to go.

Jennings was 10 of 19 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range for the game en route to her 35. She left some points on the foul line where she went 11 of 18. She added three steals and two assists.

Penny had 18 points on 5 of 20 shooting. She was 8 of 12 from the foul line and added six rebounds and three blocked shots.

Sydney Bullard had six points and five rebounds, and Armstrong had five points.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Berry Bowl at the same time the boys were to play at Marion. Hoover knew moving the game to Marion would possibly risk a win, and with the Giants playing so well on their home floor it almost certainly did. But Hoover jumped at the chance to get his team and star player maximum exposure, and they were able to record their 17th straight NCC victory.

“I’m glad we played this game here and I’m glad we were able to get out of it, and now it’s on to Carmel,” he said.

Julia Cardwell had 23 points and 15 rebounds to lead Marion. Drake had 17 points and 12 boards. She was 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Dejah Cyrus added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Marion won the battle on the boards 50-36 but committed 18 turnovers to Logan’s five.

The Berries travel to Carmel for a 1:30 p.m. varsity tipoff today.

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