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February 27, 2014

Logansport readies for Final Four matchup against Penn

Logansport’s girls basketball team made history last Saturday by winning the first regional championship in program history.

In fact it was the Berries’ first regional title in basketball since the boys won in 1974. The Logan boys have won 27 regional titles overall.

It could be argued that Logansport winning a regional title now is more difficult than it was then due to the IHSAA’s change to a class basketball format starting in the 1997-98 season. Logan, with historically an enrollment in the 1,200-1,400 range, is considered a small Class 4A school in the largest class in Indiana.

With the regional win the Berries are in the Final Four of Class 4A. The No. 11-ranked Berries (24-2) face No. 4 Penn (24-1) in the Northern Semistate game at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Crown Point.

No. 1 Lawrence North (25-1) faces No. 2 Bedford North Lawrence (25-1) in the Southern Semistate game in Class 4A later on Saturday.

This is the first basketball team from Logansport in the Final Four since the 1961 boys team.

The Berries broke through to win the regional title on Saturday with a 64-58 win over Carroll (Fort Wayne) in the semifinal and a 77-61 win over Fishers in the final.

While there were several heroes on the day, for the Berries it all starts with Miss Basketball candidate Whitney Jennings, who scored 70 points at the regional — 29 in the semifinal win and 41 in the final.

The Iowa recruit is averaging 32.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 5.3 steals per game for the Berries this year.

Junior All-Star candidate Nakeya Penny also had a big day, especially in the final when she had 27 points and eight rebounds in the win over Fishers.

The 5-10 junior is averaging 18.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.

What made Jennings’ 41 and Penny’s 27 against Fishers even more impressive is that the Tigers entered the regional as one of the best defensive teams in the state allowing just 38.5 ppg and was coming off a 61-45 upset of No. 4 Homestead in the morning semifinal. Fishers also has more than double the enrollment of Logansport.

Sydney Bullard was another key player for the Berries at the regional. She had 10 points and five rebounds in the semifinal and five points and four big rebounds in the final for the 5-9 junior.

Freshman Madison Dalton had a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards in the semifinal win. Sophomore Kennedy Curl also made several winning plays on the day including diving after loose balls to get extra possessions for the Berries.

Senior Samantha Kain also played key minutes. In the semifinal Bullard sat out about the last four minutes of the third quarter after spraining her ankle and then Penny sat out four minutes to start the fourth quarter after picking up her fourth foul. Kain filled in for both and helped the Berries to keep their lead in that contest. Then in the final Bullard battled foul trouble throughout and Kain was again there to pick up the slack, and Kain’s putback basket at the halftime buzzer gave the Berries a 10-point lead and the momentum.

Jennings picked up her fourth foul against Fishers with 7:04 left in the contest. She was able to remain in the contest and avoid her fifth. If she would have fouled out too soon, Logan coach Jerry Hoover said, “Our ship would have been sunk.”

Jennings said she was proud of her team.

“I don’t think we could have played a much better game and everybody contributed,” she said.

The Berries were not the favorite to win the regional but were able to bring home the title.

“Everyone didn’t think we could do it due to the players that we lost but our players really stepped up and really played that game,” Penny said. “We believed in ourselves that we could do it and we really stepped up and did it.”

Jennings and her teammates could not contain their emotions after the win.

“Just watching our celebration over again and just seeing the excitement from our students, our school and our community, it’s something I’ll never forget and it makes me really emotional just because everyone is a part of this,” Jennings said. “It’s not just our team, our whole community is part of this. So just to be able to share that with them, it means the world.

“It feels awesome. A lot of people didn’t think we could do it so just to be able to prove them wrong feels good. It’s our first one in the history of the school. We’ve accomplished a lot this year so to be able to do that is great but we’re not satisfied with that.”

The Berries are facing a Penn team that will be the most highly rated team they’ve faced this season.

“They’re ranked way ahead of us but so was Fishers,” Hoover said. We’re just going to go see what we can do.”

Penn is one of the largest high schools in the state with an enrollment of over 3,300, nearly three times the size of Logansport. The Kingsmen have been to the semistate five previous times and this is their third trip in the last four years. They won a semistate title in 2011.

Ironically, their lone loss this year was to Class A No. 1 Oregon-Davis the day after Christmas at the South Bend Washington Holiday Tournament. The Kingsmen responded with a 52-point win over East Chicago Central and a 60-point win over New Prairie at that tournament. They also have a win over LaPorte this year, two wins each over Mishawaka and Merrillville and a 57-43 win over Gary West in the Penn Regional final.

The Kingsmen have a balanced scoring attack and hold opponents to 33.2 ppg which is the best defensive scoring average in Class 4A. Their average scoring margin is plus-26.9 ppg.

“Penn, they’ve been a great program for years now,” Jennings said. “They’re one of those programs that keeps funneling in players each and every year. They lost an Indiana All-Star last year but they just keep on having those players come through their program. They’re used to that success, they’ve been there before so it’s going to be a challenge but we’re up for it and anything can happen.”

The Kingsmen are led in scoring and rebounding by the Buhr sisters, Caroline (11.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Camryn (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg). Jessi Alexander averages 9.6 ppg, and Lauren Ellenbarger and Kaitlyn Marenyl each add 7.1 ppg. Caroline Buhr, a 6-1 senior, is a University of San Diego recruit.

“I’ve seen them on tape. They are big, they are good,” Hoover said. “But we’re good. We’re going to go there Saturday and we’re going to play and see what happens.”

Hoover said his squad enters with confidence after winning the regional.

“I think we’ve really got a good basketball team and our team is really playing well right now,” he said. “Of course what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to keep our mind on one thing, and that’s 3:15 Saturday we’re going to play. We’ve got 32 minutes to prove ourselves and see what we can do.”

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