February 23, 2014

Jennings leads Logansport past Fishers for regional title

KOKOMO — Whitney Jennings has spent countless hours in the gym to become one of the greatest girls basketball players in state history.

On Saturday night Jennings delivered her Logansport Berries a regional championship, their first in the sport.

Jennings had a legendary performance, scoring 41 points to lead Logansport to a 77-61 win over the Tigers in the championship game of the Class 4A Kokomo Regional at historic Memorial Gym.

And when the final buzzer sounded, the Logan student section stormed the court to celebrate with their classmates.

“I think it was evident on my face and the tears couldn’t stop,” Jennings said. “We worked so hard this whole year and we’ve had our ups and downs along the way, but to get to this point it feels amazing.”

Jennings shot 13 of 18 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 13 of 15 from the foul line. She added five assists and four rebounds.

And Nakeya Penny, whose older sister Jasmine is one of the top players in the Big East this year for DePaul, showed just how good she is as well. She had 27 points and eight rebounds, was 8 of 12 from the floor, 2 of 3 from 3 and 9 of 13 from the foul line.

“It feels good to win a regional,” Penny said. “Last year we came close so this year we really wanted it and went after it. I really did it for Whitney because I knew they were going to double team her so I just really had to step up and play my game.

“It’s really good to win a regional. It’s a great experience. I’m glad I got to do it for Whitney her senior year.”

Logan coach Jerry Hoover said it took a whole team effort but that it helps to have a player as special as Jennings.

The 5-foot-5 guard is now fifth all-time in state history in scoring with 2,618 points. She’s also fourth in career assists (694) and seventh in steals (403).

“What we wanted to do is we wanted to make them beat Whitney Jennings,” he said. “If you go to Chicago you’ve got to beat Michael Jordan. If you go to Miami you’ve got to beat LeBron James. If you go to LA you’ve got to beat Kobe Bryant. And there’s a whole lot of people that contribute. This team has come along very well in that regard. They are all contributing to the success.”

Fishers (21-5), which entered as one of the best defensive teams in the state allowing 38.5 ppg, threw different defenses at the Berries (24-2) but had no answer. The Berries shot 64.9 percent from the field (24 of 37) as a team and 25 of 33 from the foul line (75.8 percent).

Jennings has 16 points in the first quarter which included back-to-back 3s to end it to give the Berries a 23-20 lead after one.

With the lead the Berries held the ball some in the second quarter and still couldn’t be stopped. A putback basket by Samantha Kain at the buzzer gave the Berries a 35-25 lead at halftime.

The Tigers tried a fullcourt double team on Jennings in the second half but still had no luck stopping the Berries as Jennings and Penny again picked the defense apart. The Berries took a 47-32 lead on a Penny banker with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers made a bit of a run to get to within 51-41 entering the fourth. They cut the lead to 55-48 on a 3-pointer by Brooke Sugg with 5:50 remaining. But that’s as close as they would get the rest of the way. Jennings had a steal and layup with 2:05 left to make it a 73-57 game and the Berries were able to hold on from there.

Sydney Bullard added five points and four rebounds in the win.

Alex Hochstedler had 19 points, Kara Gerka had 18 and Sugg added 16 to lead the Tigers, who shot 22 of 48 from the field (45.8 percent) but could not keep up with the Berries.

It was Hoover’s first regional title of his career after coaching high school basketball for 34 years, most on the boys side but with the Logan girls for the last 12 years.

“It feels great,” he said. “To think that you’re 79 years old, you’d think that you’d win more than one. I thought I was going to die and not get any.”

Logan will play Penn (24-1) next Saturday in semistate play at either Warsaw or Crown Point. The site and time will be assigned today by the IHSAA. Penn defeated Gary West 57-43 Saturday night to win the Penn Regional.

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