by Beau Wicker
This upcoming season is one those in the Logansport girls basketball program have been pointing to for some time now.
Whitney Jennings is now a junior and is joined by a strong senior class that includes her sister, Rachel Jennings, Kiley Victor, Seanna Redman and Madyson Price. Nakeya Penny is now a sophomore. And the Berries are even getting a boost from a foreign exchange student, Krista Kyyroenen, a 6-foot-1 center from Finland.
The Berries are loaded with talent and bring a lot of experience back from last season when they went 20-4 and undefeated in the North Central Conference for the first time in school history.
“On paper it looks all right,” said Logan coach Jerry Hoover in what may be the understatement of the year. “You never know until you get a chance to get started and see how everybody’s playing and so forth and so on.”
The Berries averaged 67 points per game last season, and that number could very well go up this year. But Hoover is looking for his squad to be a better defensive team than they were a year ago.
Having Kyyroenen in the middle should be able to help in that regard. Last year the Berries lost their 6-foot-3 starting center, Katie Workman, the second game of the season to a torn ACL.
“I think any time you’ve coached as long as I’ve coached, I was excited about last year and the second game of the season Katie got hurt, and it just took the air out of our sails because once she got hurt we couldn’t beat the good teams,” Hoover said. “We’re kind of in the same boat this year. We’ve got folks that can play with about anybody, but if somebody gets hurt then we’re in trouble. You’re always excited, but you know that, particularly in the girls game, that injuries can knock the props out of everything.”
Hoover thinks pacing and tempo is going to be very important this season.
“We’re not big enough, we’re not going to overpower anybody. We’re going to have to control the tempo of the game, both defensively and offensively,” he said. “It might look good out here running up and down the floor against some poor opponent, and you beat them by 35 or 40. But if you don’t get better in that game, especially defensively, and you don’t get better controlling the tempo, then you’ve just wasted another game.”
As for what tempo he is looking for, Hoover said, “It doesn’t make any difference. If they want to go slow, we want to go fast and we want to make them go fast. If they want to go fast, then we want to go slow and we want to make them go slow. So we’ve got the people, I think, that we can control the tempo defensively and offensively if we really work at it.”
Whitney Jennings, who averaged 25.4 points and 7 assists last season, has been one of the best guards in the state ever since she first stepped on a varsity court two years ago. She recently verbally committed to play basketball at Iowa, and she’ll be the second Berry in recent years to play in a power conference, joining Jasmine Penny, who’s now a junior at DePaul.
Rachel Jennings (11.5 ppg) was one of the top 3-point shooters in the state a year ago. Nakeya Penny (11.0 ppg), Jasmine’s younger sister, averaged in double figures as a freshman.
The Berries have decent size across the front line with Kyyroenen, Penny (5-11) and Victor (5-11). Redman (5-9) and Price (5-9) are versatile players. Rachel Jennings (5-8) starts at shooting guard, and Whitney Jennings (5-5) is the point guard.
“I’m really happy with what I’ve seen so far out of Redman and Price. They’re both shooting the ball very well,” Hoover said. “Rachel continues to shoot well. The exchange student is a good 3-point shooter and has some decent moves around the basket. She’s really going to help us if she plays like she practices.
“I think that Kiley Victor will provide a lot of strength to our team because she’s a good rebounder and very good defensively.”
Junior Samantha Kain (5-9) and sophomores Sydney Bullard (5-9) and Emily Prentice (5-4), could also see some varsity time.
The Berries lost three players to graduation from last year’s team in Workman, starter McKenzie Mills (8.6 ppg) and reserve Bailey McIntire (1.8 ppg).
The Berries open the season on Tuesday when they host Lafayette Central Catholic before traveling to sectional nemesis McCutcheon on Friday.
Hoover talked about the Knights, who went 6-19 a year ago.
“They graduated a lot of folks and they’ve got a new coach [Craig DeVault],” he said. “They had a girl move in from Harrison that’s pretty good. Playing them here the first game of the year, you never know about first games, but again, we’ve got experience and we’ve got people that can control the tempo and that’s what we want to do. We want to start right off the bat taking charge of the game and keep playing the way we want to play and not the way they want to play.”