By Clyde Hughes
For the Pharos-Tribune
LAFAYETTE — The Logansport girls basketball team unleashed its transition game early at Resler Gymnasium, leaping out to a double-digit first quarter lead and cruised to a 79-35 thumping of McCutcheon.
Junior point guard Whitney Jennings scored 34 points, 14 of those in the first quarter, while sophomore forward Nakeya Penny added 18 points while yanking down a game-high 14 rebounds. Senior guard Rachel Jennings chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Logansport victory snapped the Berries’ five-game losing streak to the team that has beat them in sectional play for the past three years. The Berries did it fairly easy, too, as Whitney Jennings seemed to score at will against a young McCutcheon team, nearly outscoring the Mavs by herself for the game, when she wasn’t dishing out nine assists to teammates.
“McCutcheon is good every year, but we knew they graduated their top six players last year,” said Jennings, who went 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) from the field, including 4 of 6 from the 3-point arc. “We just wanted to jump on them early and keep it that way. It’s good to get this win, but we want to keep working hard and improving.”
Logansport coach Jerry Hoover said the Berries’ biggest advantage was experience — Logansport had tons of it with four returning starters, and McCutcheon had next to none. The Berries used that advantage to get quick scores on their fast break while pounding the Mavericks on the boards.
The Berries shot 53.2 percent from the field (33 for 62) compared to McCutcheon, which shot 24.5 percent (13 for 53). Logansport, behind Penny’s efforts, outrebounded the Mavericks 53-21. Logansport forced 14 turnovers while giving up the ball 11 times itself.
“John Wooden said the most important stat is field goal percentage, the second is turnovers and the third is rebounding,” Hoover said. “In all three instances we won those by pretty big margins, so we should have won based on the performance of the girls.
“I was a little surprised by the margin, but they have a bunch of players who haven’t played on this stage before. By the tournament they will have a lot more experience and I believe they’re going to play a lot better than they played [Friday].”
Behind the 3-point shooting of Bailey Smith and Gabrielle Gary, McCutcheon played even with the Berries early. A Smith trey tied the game at 8-8 with 4:32 left in the first quarter. It was the last time the Mavericks were in arm’s reach of Logansport.
Whitney Jennings scored on 15-foot jumper and a long-range 3-point shot on consecutive possessions to spark a 17-3 run, giving the Berries a 25-11 lead by the end of the quarter.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Tori Bluming early in the second quarter helped McCutcheon cut Logansport’s lead to 27-17. A Rachel Jennings basket and a Kiley Victor layup at the 4:30 mark got the Berries moving again.
“They changed defenses on us and went to a 2-1-1 and we didn’t handle that well for a while,” Hoover said. “We talked about that at halftime and we played against it a lot better in the third quarter.”
Logansport’s stingy defensive effort forced four McCutcheon turnovers to end the first half that allowed Logansport to hang on to a 35-23 lead.
“I thought we played pretty well in the second quarter,” said McCutcheon coach Jeff Knoy. “We contained them a little bit and they missed some jump shots. Give a lot of credit to Logansport. They played well [Saturday] night. Whitney Jennings is a very good player. Transition just killed us. She’s awfully hard to guard in transition and she’s going to beat a lot of people that way.”
The third quarter was all Logansport as the Berries went on an 11-2 run to open the period. While the Berries scored in transition and second-chance baskets on offense, they limited the Mavericks to 1 of 5 shooting and two turnovers during that run.
Hoover said he was pleased with the play of Victor, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds, and said her play helped the Berries break out.
“I thought she played a dickens of a game,” Hoover said. “She had three assists that were just outstanding. She did a great job rebounding and with steals.”
Logansport’s 6-foot-1 center Krista Kyyroenen did not play because of a cold, Hoover said.
“We treat our players like young adults,” Hoover said. “We ask her how she was feeling and she said she wasn’t 100 percent.”
The Berries travel to Maconaquah on Wednesday.