by Beau Wicker
Sometimes sports are all about the matchups.
After playing in a physical fullcourt tussle against Fort Wayne Snider in the Class 4A Kokomo Regional, there’s a reason why many people around the Logansport girls basketball program were rooting for Westfield against Fort Wayne South in the afternoon game.
Westfield led most of the way against South Side and even missed a free throw that could have sent the game into double overtime in a 58-56 overtime loss.
That meant the Berries had to face another very physical fullcourt pressing team from Fort Wayne for the regional title. Having to do so could have been the Berries’ downfall, as they were defeated by South Side 71-55 in the final.
“They just played totally different than what we’re used to,” Logan senior guard Rachel Jennings said of the Archers. “They shot better than what we expected and then obviously some of our shots weren’t falling. I think it was just we were tired from the game before, and we’re not used to seeing that kind of press and that kind of pressure all the time. I just think some people had trouble with it, we all kind of did.
“I think we would have been better off against Westfield.”
Westfield would have had a big size advantage against the Berries, but it might have been a similar situation to the Hall of Fame Classic game against Hamilton Southeastern, a game the Berries won 50-40. In that game, the Berries were able to crash down and double- and triple-team the Royals’ taller players in the post. It was also a halfcourt game, and when the Berries got stops they were able to get the ball to Whitney Jennings in transition and eventually wore out the bigger Royals.
But instead the Berries had to go up against Fort Wayne South, which also barely survived in a sectional championship game at Homestead, 54-53.
The Berries were outscored on second-chance points 19-10 and points off turnovers 19-7 in the loss to the Archers. They also shot about the same percentages from the field, which was supposed to be an advantage going into the game.
Fort Wayne South has been right on the verge in recent seasons, and the senior-led Archers entered this season ranked as a top-five team.
“Fort Wayne South, they’re a good team,” Whitney Jennings said. “We were trying to play in our zone and we were going to let them shoot, and they were hitting their shots that we were giving them, and we didn’t handle their press very well either. I thought we would do better at that, but we didn’t. All those things combined just caught up to us.
“I don’t think we were in very good position [to handle the press]. There were some things we definitely could have done different, but we didn’t have that much time to prepare. It’s just one of those things where maybe if we would have had more film to look at, more time to prepare, it would have been different.
“We just prepared for Snider because in order to move on you’ve got to win that first game.”
Logan coach Jerry Hoover knew his team would have a tough time against South Side, especially since the Berries had to expend so much energy in the morning game against Snider and had many bumps and bruises across the board to show for it.
“Looking in the warmups, their bodies were a heck of a lot bigger than ours. And they had more people they could play,” he said. “We couldn’t rest anybody in the morning. They just got us.”
With the hectic style of the game, the high-scoring Berries were never able to get into any kind of an offensive rhythm.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” Rachel Jennings said, “and they had girls that made 3s that didn’t make them all year.
“They made free throws down the stretch, they did make their shots. They played a good game.”
The Berries toughened up their schedule as much as they could, Hoover said. They added Carmel last season. They played in the Hall of Fame Classic this season which included four of the best teams in the state. They added games against East Chicago Central and South Bend St. Joseph’s, two programs that are known for their physicality. They have one of the best fullcourt pressing teams in the state in their conference in Anderson. But they still hadn’t seen the type of fullcourt pressure that they saw from the two opponents from northeast Indiana on Saturday.
“Both are really good. I could see how their games against each other really must be crazy games,” Rachel Jennings said.
It didn’t help that the Berries were once again short-handed this year due to a season-ending knee injury. Senior starter Seanna Redman tore her ACL in the Anderson game on Dec. 15. She said she will have surgery on March 1 because she plans to play sports in college, so she will miss the upcoming softball season for the Berries. She said her lateral movement needed for softball was too limited because of the injury. She added she was happy she postponed her surgery because she got to play on senior night in basketball, when she got the start and knocked down her first 3-point attempt against Winamac on Jan. 31.
Having Redman out threw out the master plans for the season. The Berries never did seem to be the same team defensively after her injury. Madyson Price filled in admirably as a starter, but she was thriving as a versatile backup that could provide instant offense off the bench.
“I’ve really got to say that Price stepped up in that situation and really helped. She did a great job,” Hoover said. “But by the same token, Redman is really a good defensive basketball player. She’s a little different type of player. She would have gave us more depth in our rotation. We were pretty thin. In a game like Saturday, to get a little more rest for everybody might have helped a lot.”
The Berries didn’t press near as much following Redman’s injury. They might have been able to give the Fort Wayne squads a dose of their own medicine if they would have had more depth.
“We were not as good in the press,” Hoover said. “With Redman on that left side up front, you can’t get down that sideline against her. That puts everything back in the middle where we could pick it off.”
Hoover also thought Redman’s offense would have picked up as the season went along as Price’s did.
“Redman can shoot. She has as pretty of form as anybody. It’s quick and it’s in rhythm. Half of shooting is getting in rhythm,” he said.
The Berries lost 6-foot-3 Katie Workman to a torn ACL last season, when the plan was for her to be a defensive force in the middle of their 2-3 zone. The only good to come from the injury was Nakeya Penny and to an extent Kiley Victor got more varsity minutes, which might have helped this season. The only possible good to come from Redman’s injury was Sydney Bullard got more varsity minutes, which again might help next year.
Hoover has said that torn ACL injuries are just a part of the women’s game, much more so than the men’s game due to the extent of which they occur. The Berries also had a season derailed during Jasmine Penny’s junior season in 2009 when Lindsay Rich, who was averaging 14.4 points per game, went down with a torn ACL.