by Beau Wicker
McCutcheon girls basketball coach Jeff Knoy knew his squad had a lot of points to make up against Logansport from their game earlier this season.
So the Mavericks came out playing some good old-fashioned stall ball against the Berries in the first game of the Class 4A Logansport Sectional on Tuesday night.
The Berries had the answer. It didn’t take them too long to jump out to a double-digit lead, and they were able to cruise from there to a 48-21 victory.
“That was our game plan. I liked it,” Knoy said of utilizing stall tactics. “We just didn’t execute it very well. But they’re pretty good.”
The Mavs (5-17) took about three minutes off the clock to start the game when Kiley Victor came up with a steal that eventually led to a score for the Berries (22-1). Whitney Jennings did likewise just seconds later.
A Rachel Jennings’ 3-pointer two minutes into the second quarter gave Logan a 15-4 lead, causing Knoy to call a timeout.
“The first quarter we were only down six [at 10-4],” Knoy said. “If you would have told me we were down six to Logansport ... the last time we were down 27-5, so keep it close was our plan. There were two or three possessions there where you have to make that shot, then we have a couple turnovers. We turn the ball over and they have a couple leak outs, some easy shots. Then your down 9, 10, 12, and it snowballs from there.”
The Berries extended the lead to 25-6 at halftime despite leading scorer Whitney Jennings scoring just five points. Rachel Jennings scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half and made both of her 3-point attempts. Nakeya Penny had seven points which included a 3-pointer that gave the Berries a 20-6 advantage midway through the second quarter.
“I think a key for us to make a run in this tournament is we’ve got to have productivity out of everyone our team. Everyone’s got to contribute,” Whitney Jennings said. “It doesn’t need to be a one-man show or two-man show, everyone’s got to contribute for us to do well.”
Whitney Jennings scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the second half. She added four rebounds, four assists and four steals for the contest. Penny finished with 12 points and five boards. Victor had three points and six boards. Syd Bullard chipped in four quick points to end the third quarter that gave Logan a 41-11 lead entering the fourth.
The Berries shot 42.4 percent from the field and held the Mavs to 26.5 percent shooting, including just 1 of 15 from 3-point range.
“They definitely held the ball, so I think we were kind of getting used to that,” Rachel Jennings said. “I think we played pretty good defense. Offensively we missed some layups, so it wasn’t probably our best game, but we came out and played a really good first half and we got up.”
Another key statistic was the Berries forced 17 turnovers while committing only six. They also outscored the Mavs 17-2 at the foul line.
“They didn’t attack the basket. They were delaying, but they didn’t get any offensive production out of it at the start of the game,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “The snowball starts rolling downhill. You go to the statistics, we’re shooting 23 free throws and they’re shooting four, because in my judgment they’re not going to the basket, attacking the basket. It gave us an opportunity to be aggressive and go to the boards.
“It got out of hand for them.”
Kerstyn Lowery led the Mavericks with nine points, including all six of their points in the first half.
The Mavericks have caused the Berries a lot of heartache in recent years having defeated them in the previous three sectional finals.
“It feels nice. We definitely didn’t want to lose to them four times in a row, so that was nice,” Rachel Jennings said.
The Mavericks dealt with heavy losses to graduation this year, having lost six players that went on to play college sports. They were sophomore heavy this season with a deep class that includes Lowery, who contributed to last year’s team. They were defeated by the Berries 79-35 at home in early November.
Last season the Mavericks were defeated by eventual state champ North Central in overtime in a regional semifinal game.
The Berries were close last year in sectional play against the Mavs. A year older, wiser and stronger, they’re hoping to get over the hump this season.
“They were close. They were a good team,” Knoy said. “They have been for years. Logansport’s had really good teams. We just happened to have some good athletes that could knock with them. Yeah, one step away [last season], we’ll take that. Overtime loss to the state champions, it happens.”
Next up for the No. 4-ranked Berries is Harrison (8-13) at 6 o’clock Friday night for a semifinal game. The Berries defeated the Raiders 68-29 in the Berry Bowl back on Dec. 11.
Kokomo (13-8) and Marion (11-9) will meet in the later semifinal on Friday. Kokomo defeated Lafayette Jeff 49-35 on Tuesday night to advance.