by Beau Wicker
Opposing coaches have been scrambling to somehow pull off a big upset of the host team at the Logansport girls basketball sectional.
On Tuesday, McCutcheon coach Jeff Knoy employed stalling tactics against the Class 4A No. 4 Berries. On Friday night, Harrison coach Jake Rettig threw two defenders at all times at Logansport star guard Whitney Jennings in the halfcourt defense.
Neither plan ended up working.
The Berries had a balanced attack with four players in double figures in a 75-48 win over the Raiders in a sectional semifinal game. Logansport (23-1) will face North Central Conference rival Kokomo tonight for the championship.
“Our game plan coming in was to get a double on Whit at all times that we could and hope that they would miss some high-post jumpers and that sort of stuff. That’s what we worked on all week,” Rettig said. “They were hitting them. ... They took advantage of what we gave them.”
And despite facing constant double-teams, Jennings still flirted with a triple-double and finished with 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The 2014 Miss Basketball candidate and Iowa recruit added four steals.
“I think she is the best player in the state, honestly,” Rettig said. “I really do, because of her ball-handling, her shooting, passing. I think she’s great. But I’m proud of my girls for battling all night and getting back on defense and running the game plan. I told them I couldn’t be more proud of them for how hard they played.
“They’re No. 4 in the state for a reason.”
Rachel Jennings scored 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range for the Berries (23-1). Nakeya Penny had 19 points and seven boards, and Kiley Victor added 16 points and nine rebounds. Madyson Price chipped in four assists and four boards.
“If they’re going to put two people out on me up top, that’s going to leave Kiley and Nakeya almost on a 2-on-1 situation, and they took advantage of that very well,” Whitney Jennings said. “We’ve just got to get the ball inside when teams do that to us.”
The Berries started the game with a 15-2 run over the first six minutes of the game. The lead grew to 35-14 with three minutes left in the first half. The Raiders (8-14) responded with a run behind back-to-back 3-pointers by Alyssa Withers and Autumn Ringen followed by a three-point play by Courtney Jacobson.
But Penny ended the half with a basket on an assist by Price that gave the Berries a 41-25 lead at the break. Penny scored 17 for the half, and Victor had 10.
“At halftime Whit and Rachel had 14 points combined,” Rettig said. “Our idea there worked fine, but Nakeya had 17.”
The Raiders were able to hang with the Berries in the third quarter and trailed 61-42 after three despite Rachel Jennings knocking down four straight treys in the frame. Logan opened the fourth quarter with a quick 6-0 burst to open up a 25-point lead.
But Rettig was pleased with what he saw from his squad for the most part, especially after the slow start to the game.
“I thought we were solid offensively. I think since Christmas here our offense just keeps getting better and better. I don’t know how many shots we missed there right at the beginning, but we didn’t have any points there the first three minutes. If we would have came out and hit shots early, I think it would have been a lot closer for a lot longer,” he said.
Ringen knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points to lead the Raiders. Shailen Johnson had 10 points and nine boards. Jacobson scored nine points. Spitznagle had five points and five assists, and Claire Muller added four points and seven boards.
Rettig was pleased with the progress his program made this season.
“We’ve had more wins this year than we had the last three years combined, and we got a lot of confidence going into the end of the season and I think we have a lot of confidence going into next year,” he said.
The Berries committed just eight turnovers for the game while forcing 18. They also won the rebounding battle (37-34) and shot 48.4 percent from the field to Harrison’s 34.7.
“Obviously they wanted to take Whit away. They had two people guarding her the whole time,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “When they did that, that opened up the middle and I thought our people did a really good job of recognizing post-to-post opportunities, but we missed a bunch of lay-ins in there. If we would have made all our lay-ins it would have been worse than it was.”
Kokomo (14-8) advanced with a 46-31 win over Marion on Friday night. The title game is at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Berry Bowl. Logan is seeking the 10th sectional title in program history and first since 2007.
The Berries won at Kokomo 62-34 back on Nov. 17. That game was tied at 17-all with two minutes to go in the first half before the Berries went on a big run to take command.