by Beau Wicker
The North Central Conference and sectional champion Logansport Lady Berries are set to compete in their first regional in six years on Saturday.
The Berries will take the relatively short trek down U.S. 35, a.k.a. NCC Road, a.k.a. Championship Road, to compete in the Class 4A Kokomo Regional at historic Memorial Gym. Logan (24-1) faces Fort Wayne Snider (20-3) at 10 a.m., followed by Westfield (21-2) vs. Fort Wayne South (21-3). The title game is at 8 p.m.
“It’s the best field in the state,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “It’s absolutely the best field in the regionals in the state of Indiana, no question.”
Snider is a perennial Fort Wayne power hailing out of the Summit Athletic Conference. The Panthers have competed in regional play in four straight seasons and were the regional champs in 2010. They won a state title in 1988.
They are ranked 16th in the ICGSA poll, 13th in the IBCA poll and 14th in the Sagarin Ratings.
The Panthers are led by 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward Meredith Shipman, a Western Michigan recruit who averages 16.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 steals per game.
The Panthers have a balanced scoring attack and have one other player averaging in double figures in 5-8 sophomore Deja Wimby (14.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.7 spg).
“They are very, very physical,” Hoover said. “They keep their hands on you all the time. They get it done with defense — man-to-man, 1-3-1 three-quarter court and then run and jump in the fullcourt.”
The Berries counter with an attack led by 5-5 junior point guard Whitney Jennings, an Iowa recruit who is averaging 23.8 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game. Her older sister, 5-8 senior guard Rachel Jennings, scores 15.0 ppg and is a prolific 73 of 152 from 3-point range (48 percent). Nakeya Penny, a 5-11 sophomore, averages 13.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg. Kiley Victor, a 5-11 senior, adds 5.4 ppg and 7.8 rpg.
Other players in the Berries’ main rotation include 5-9 senior Madyson Price (4.2 ppg), 6-1 junior Krista Kyyroenen (2.3 ppg) and 5-9 sophomore Sydney Bullard (1.0 ppg).
The Berries are ranked No. 4 in both the ICGSA and IBCA polls and are 17th in the Sagarin Ratings.
Hoover said the focus this week in practice has been almost solely on Snider.
“That’s all we’re thinking about,” he said. “We’ve got a few little things that we talk about Westfield because you have to prepare a little bit. If we would play South Side, it’s just like playing twin sisters, because South Side and Snider are very similar in preparation.”
Fort Wayne South is ranked No. 8 in the IBCA poll, 11th in the ICGSA and 12th in the Sagarin Ratings. The Archers are led by 5-11 senior Ariana Simmons (13.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), an IPFW recruit, and 5-11 junior Brittni Clopton (10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg).
“They’re good. They’re song and dance is they press fullcourt. They have a whole bunch of presses,” Hoover said.
Westfield is ranked No. 10 in the ICGSA poll, No. 11 in the IBCA and No. 13 in the Sagarin Ratings. The Shamrocks are led by 6-3 senior Jenn Anderson (16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg), an Indiana recruit, and 6-2 junior Kayla Brown (14.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
They knocked off Hamilton Southeastern 37-35 in a sectional final. HSE, which Logan defeated at the Hall of Fame Classic, was led by 6-3 senior Taya Reimer, a Notre Dame recruit and McDonald’s All-American.
“[The Shamrocks] were like us. They had their sectional at home,” Hoover said. “It was tied with 10 seconds to go and the Hamilton Southeastern girl fouled the Westfield girl and the Westfield girl made the free throws and that was it. ... The girl from Hamilton Southeastern thought they were down one, and she fouled on purpose and put them on the line. She was a sophomore and she put them at the line. You just feel sorry for the girl.”
The Berries are hoping to have a better showing than the last time they were in regional play, when they were defeated by Fort Wayne South 62-34 in 2007.
“That team overachieved. I’ve always said that horse rode as long as it could go and it collapsed in the regional,” Hoover said. “This horse, they’re capable of playing at that level. The other team wasn’t.”
The Logan coach added the team that wins this regional will certainly have to earn it.
“When you look at the Sagarin Ratings, all the teams in that regional are all right close together. It’s going to be a dogfight,” he said.