After heavy losses to graduation, the Logansport Berries surprised some fans with the type of season they had a year ago.
The Berries went 9-14 but had North Central Conference wins over McCutcheon, Anderson and Indianapolis Tech.
They’re looking to take a step forward in Year 2 for coach Drew Schauss.
“I’m glad we surprised people,” Schauss said. “It didn’t surprise our coaching staff because we knew the talent those guys had. I think the one thing I want people to see again this year is how hard they play and how they play for each other.”
The Berries have to replace All-Loganland second-team selection Evan Hassett (12 ppg, 5 rpg) and third-team selection Juan Alvarado (4.5 ppg, 3 apg), who was their defensive ace.
But they return first-team selection Malachi Pearson, a 6-foot-4 senior who averaged 12 ppg, 6 rpg and 3 apg and shot 37% from 3.
Pearson will not play in Tuesday’s season opener at Peru, said Schauss, as he just returned from a quarantine on Wednesday and will be short of the required 10 practices by two on Tuesday. He’ll be back for the Dec. 1 game at Lewis Cass.
Schauss said today’s scheduled practice will be the first practice of the season where the entire varsity team will be in attendance at the same time.
Logansport High School announced its attendance policies this winter on its website. With Cass County currently in orange status, or medium to high spread of COVID-19 according to state guidelines, the Berry Bowl will be filled to just 25% capacity for home games at this time.
Schauss noted that with the size of the Berry Bowl, 1,700 fans will still be able to attend. For the game at Peru on Tuesday, each player will receive two tickets and no other fans will be allowed to attend. Cheerleaders and bands will also not be in attendance.
Peru won last year’s meeting 65-64 in the Berry Bowl.
“Peru will always be well coached, hard-nosed and disciplined on both ends of the court,” Schauss said. “It’s a great challenge for us to start off the new year. For us to be successful we need to keep Matt Ross from dominating the offensive glass and know where all of their shooters are at on the court. We have some returners that are eager to get back on the court and newcomers ready to prove themselves.”
Noah Lange, a 5-8 junior sharpshooter, returns after garnering a third-team All-Loganland selection a year ago, when he averaged 10 ppg and made 63 3-pointers at a 35% clip.
Another returning starter is 6-2 junior Caleb Crook (5 ppg, 4 rpg).
James Plantz, a 6-foot senior, a Jamin Piercefield, a 6-3 senior, will likely have larger roles this season.
“James just has that spark and he’s a gamer. The lights are on and he hits big shots and just plays basketball,” Schauss said. “Jamin is an unbelievable shooter.”
Carter Davis, a 6-5 senior, gives the Berries size in the middle.
“Carter Davis, he’s got the talent and is very skilled at the big position and has a big body,” Schauss said.
Garrett Barron (3 ppg, 3 rpg), a 6-2 senior, and Grayson Long, a 6-2 sophomore, will also have key varsity roles.
“Garrett Barron is the energy man. You know what you’re going to get with Garrett. You’re going to get heart and passion and just playing extremely hard,” Schauss said. “Grayson Long is going to surprise a lot of people from starting on the freshman team last year to now just being solely on the varsity team and working his way towards being a starter.”
A newcomer to the basketball team this year is 6-1 senior Juan Perez.
“Juan is so quick, strong and athletic. He’s one of those guys we’ll try to throw in as a defensive stopper at times,” Schauss said. “The surprising thing with him is he has great touch and has a pretty good looking jump shot for being one of the all-time leading goal scorers in the state and not really playing basketball competitively.”
Two sophomores who might see some varsity time are 6-foot Izak Mock and 5-10 Jeremiah Miller, who won’t be back until around January due to a football injury.
The Berries won’t be at full strength until their second game.
“Malachi was first-team All-NCC and I think he and Noah will be one of the most dynamic backcourts in the area with their shooting ability and their ability to create for others. I think those two are going to do a lot of great things for us this year,” Schauss said.
The Berries are looking to be NCC and sectional contenders this year. Lafayette Jeff and Marion remain the favorites, especially with McCutcheon sophomore Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn, who already has offers from IU and Purdue, is out for the season with a foot injury.
Several of the Logan players were a part of the fourth-ever sectional championship football team this fall.
“We’ve got 11 varsity guys who have bought into a mission of the same thing the football team did. They’re carrying over that passion and that energy and that winning attitude to this and I think that’s going to be extremely beneficial for us as well,” Schauss said. “I hope we can string together a lot of wins, put them together and continue to build off that, build some momentum. The NCC and sectional are obviously tough and plus our area teams will be very good as well. You’re not going to be able to take a game off all year.”