GIRLS BASKETBALL

Penn beats Logansport in girls basketball semistate nail-biter

2014-03-01T18:30:00Z 2014-03-02T01:10:16Z Penn beats Logansport in girls basketball semistate nail-biterHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Penn practices shooting free throws with the gym's sound system pumped up past 11.

The Kingsmen have learned to cut out distraction and play past the noise under pressure.

So with a gym more than half-filled with loud Logansport fans at Saturday's Class 4A North Semistate, Penn hitting seven free throws in the last 1 minute, 32 seconds of the game was nothing new.

While it was hitting its free throws, the Berries missed six of seven as the Kingsmen advanced to the state championship game with a 44-41 victory.

"Free throws win games," Penn coach Kristi Kaniewski said. "We work on pressure free throws and simulate those kinds of things all the time in practice. We talk to the girls about having confidence in those situations when you step up to that line. Every player should want to be in that position at the end of the game."

Down by as many as 10 after a two-point first quarter, Logansport edged back into the game behind Whitney Jennings and Nakeya Penny, who combined for 40 of the Berries' 41 points.

After tying the game heading into the fourth quarter, Logansport led by as many as six as part of an 11-0 run that lasted the final 4:14 of the third quarter and first 1:08 of the fourth.

Logansport had missed just one free throw heading into the fourth quarter, then went 5 of 11 from the line in the last stanza.

"We went into delay, and we didn't make free throws or layups, and that's what you're supposed to do in that situation," said Logansport coach Jerry Hoover, a one-time boys coach at Lake Central.

Jennings led all scorers with 23 points after having just six at halftime. Perry added 17.

Jessica Alexander led Penn (25-1) with 13 points, while the Kingsmen spread the scoring around to eight players.

"Anyone can step out on any given night, and I think that's what's so special about this team," Alexander said. "We don't have just one player that can play. It's an all-around team game and that's what's gotten us this far."

En route to its semistate appearance, Penn beat Merrillville and West Side in the regional. From Mishawaka, the drive to the state finals in Terre Haute will be nearly 225 miles.

The Kingsmen played in the 2011 state finals, losing to Jeffersonville.

"This means a lot, considering at the beginning of the year a lot of people were counting us out," Kaniewski said. "They had ticketed LaPorte or Homestead all the way to the state finals, and here we are."

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