BY DEAN HOCKNEY
ROCHESTER, Ind. – Known as a defensive team, the sixth-ranked Western Lady Panthers put its reputation to good use with a low-scoring 46-35 win over Kankakee Valley to capture the IHSAA Class 3A Rochester Regional – earning the Panthers its second trip to the Final Four in three years.
“This means a lot,” said Lady Panthers senior Carley O’Neal, a Davis and Elkins College recruit. “I am so happy; it is such a great feeling. We take pride in (our defense). We work hard on it. Defense wins championships.”
While Kiersten Durbin was leading the offense with 17 points, Sierra Daniel had a breakout game with eight rebounds and at least four blocked shots.
“This is crazy and I am happy to have these amazing teammates,” said Daniel, who was the only key member of this year’s squad who wasn’t a part of the last regional championship team.
Durbin, who is known more as a defensive specialist rather than a scorer, tossed in 11 points in the Panthers 47-43 win over South Bend St. Joseph earlier in the day.
“We work hard together and now we get to go to the semi-state again,” said Durbin, who added she worked on her quick release all summer. “One of my previous coaches said I had to do that (get her shot off quicker), so I worked on it so the defender does not get there.”
O’Neal said that the 2012 Final Four run helped this team prepare for this year’s tournament.
“We all knew coming in what it was like,” she said. “We knew we had to take it one game at a time and keep our composure. We had to keep playing and leave everything on the court.”
O’Neal finished the championship game with 12 points while Raven Black added 10. Jessica Givens grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. In the opening game win, Black led the squad with 14 points
TIPTON WINS LAPEL REGIONAL
No. 5-ranked Tipton defeated No. 4 Wabash 48-37 to capture its first regional title since 2001 and only the second in school history. But it was not an easy win by any means as the Lady Blue Devils trailed early in the game before gaining control in the second half.
With a heavy defensive presence surrounding Indiana All-Star candidate Kacie Juday, Macie Lively and Lela Crawford picked up the Blue Devils scoring in a team effort victory. Lively hit 7 of 9 shots for 20 points and Crawford scored 14 while grabbing seven rebounds. Juday finished with seven points and nine boards.
In the regional opener, Tipton defeated Shenandoah 67-39 as Juday dropped in 34 points. Lively added 16 and Crawford scored 13.
LOGANSPORT CAPTURES REGIONAL
In one of the most dominating performances in IHSAA girls tournament history, Logansport senior Whitney Jennings demonstrated to the state why she should be crowned Indiana’s Miss Basketball, and in the process helped lead the Lady Berries to its first-ever berth in a girls basketball Final Four. No. 11 Logansport defeated No. 14 Fishers 77-61 to capture the IHSAA Class 4A Kokomo Regional – the programs first regional title.
In front of approximately 3,000 fans at Memorial Gymnasium, Jennings hit 13 of 18 shots for 41 points – the 18th best single-game performance in tournament history and only the 28th 40-plus point game in post-season play. Add in the 27-point game from junior Nakeya Penny and the Berries were no match down the stretch for the Tigers. No, that is not a misprint – Jennings and Penny combined for 68 points while the Berries shot 65 percent from the field.
Late in the fourth quarter, Jennings passed Abby Conklin of Charlestown (1993) for fifth on the IHSAA all-time scoring list with 2,618 career points. She is also fourth in assists (694) and seventh in steals (403).
Penny is also in the Lady Berries 1,000 Point Club, making the duo one of the deadliest scoring tandems in the state.
In the regional opener, Logansport defeated Carroll 64-58 with Jennings scoring 29 points and grabbing seven steals.
(Douglas Hockney and Chris Lowry/WIOU contributed to this story)