ALL SPORTS CHAMPS
NCC ATHLETE OF
McCutcheon tops Logan, wins 3rd straight sectional crown
February 12, 2012North Central Conference
LOGANSPORT — One thing Logansport’s girls basketball team didn’t want to do against the powerful McCutcheon Mavericks was to fall behind by double digits in Saturday night’s Class 4A Logansport Sectional championship game.
But unfortunately for the Berries, their shots weren’t falling at a fast enough rate early on, and they found themselves trailing by 12 points at halftime in the title game. Logan made a great charge in the third quarter, but McCutcheon recovered just in time and pulled away for a 62-50 win.
The eighth-ranked Mavericks (20-3), led by six seniors who have enjoyed a great deal of championship success in high school sports, won their third straight sectional title. All three championship games have come at the expense of the Berries (20-4), who seemingly will be the favorites to bring home the title next year.
The biggest difference of the game statistically Saturday night was Logan shot 35.3 percent from the field to McCutcheon’s 48.9.
“We played about as well as we can play, except for shooting the ball,” Logan coach Jerry Hoover said. “We didn’t shoot the ball real well. I thought we missed a few lay-ins and a few wide-open shots that we normally will knock down.
“But I am absolutely not disappointed in the way we played. Every girl who played hard, every girl who played, played smart.”
By the Logan coaching staff’s count, the Berries missed seven layups in the first half, though most were contested by the taller Mavericks, whose starters range from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot tall. That in part caused the Berries to shoot just 35 percent from the field in the first half and fall behind 35-23 at the break, again the type of margin they didn’t want to have to face.
But in the third quarter the 3,000-plus fans in attendance got to “Whitness” a preview of the type of play Berry fans are going to see over the next two years. Sophomore sensation Whitney Jennings started heating up from the field and was making unbelievable shots to bring Logan back to within 40-38 with 1:30 left in the third quarter. Another Logan youngster with immense talent, freshman Nakeya Penny, had four points during the charge.
After the Berries cut the lead to two, they got the ball back but then turned the ball away in the press, one of just 10 turnovers for the game facing constant fullcourt pressure, and McCutcheon might have gotten away with a walk and later sank two free throws on the possession to push the lead back up to four. Logan then had two good looks around the basket but came up empty, and Amanda Neill drilled a 3-pointer at the horn to give McCutcheon a 45-38 lead entering the fourth.
It was the Mavs’ third buzzer-beater of the game — Neill also had one to end the first quarter and Jessica Hollinger had one right before halftime — that totaled seven points, Logan’s deficit entering the final frame. The Berries, and in particular Jennings, have been great at getting buzzer-beaters to end quarters, but on this night they got some of their own medicine.
McCutcheon opened the fourth with a 6-0 run to take a 51-38 lead midway through, as Logan had several shots just somehow bounce off, a theme of the game. McKenzie Mills had back-to-back steals in that time with the game still in single digits, but a questionable charging call at best on Jennings and later a jump-ball situation negated the turnovers, two of McCutcheon’s 16 in the contest.
The Berries still had a final charge in them, as Mills hit four straight free throws and Penny made two baskets, one after another Mills steal, to cut the lead to 53-46 with 2:41 remaining.
Mills came up with another steal but a Jennings shot was just off the mark on a chance to cut the lead to five. Jennings did connect on her next try to cut the lead to 54-48 with 1:46 left, but Lakan Hasser-Smith hit 1 of 2 free throws, and the miss went out of bounds off Logan. Ashlynn Sexton then scored on the in-bounds lay to make it 57-48 with 1:37 left, and the Mavericks made it academic from the foul line from there.
Jennings finished with 17 points, 13 of which came in the second half against an outstanding team defensive effort by McCutcheon. Mills had a solid final game with 11 points, five rebounds and four steals. Penny finished with eight points and five boards, Rachel Jennings had six points and five boards and Kiley Victor added four points and five boards.
The Berries used a box-and-one defense on leading-scorer Hasser-Smith the entire night and held her to eight points. But reputed Berry killers Neill and Sexton led the way for the Mavs with 20 and 18 points, respectively. Chasity Horn had nine points and seven boards, and Hollinger added six points and 12 boards.
“It’s disappointing to go out like this,” Whitney Jennings said, “but we had a great year, I’m so proud of my team. We had a great year, we played so hard every game. It’s a heartbreaking loss, but we’ll learn from it and go on.
“McCutcheon’s a great team, they beat us the last three years [in sectional finals]. Every year I keep thinking it’s going to be our year, but we’re going to work really hard this summer in the offseason and get ready for next year. … We’ll go on, we’ll get better because of this.”
Logan will graduate three seniors, starter Mills, sixth man Bailey McIntire and Katie Workman, a 6-foot-3 center who missed nearly the entire season with a torn ACL.
“When Katie Workman got injured the second game of the year, if somebody would have told me we would have won 20 ballgames this year with this group of young ladies, I wouldn’t have agreed with them,” Hoover said. “They really overachieved in my judgment.”