by Beau Wicker Sports Editor
---- — COLUMBUS — Miss Basketball Whitney Jennings said her Indiana All-Stars team had to regroup following a 21-point loss to the Juniors earlier in the week.
“We were pretty disappointed after the loss but our coaches just told us that we had to keep our heads about it and we’ve just got to fight back,” she said.
The Seniors struck back with a 73-71 win over the Juniors Wednesday at Columbus North High School.
Jennings led the Seniors with 17 points and three assists in the win. She was 6 of 12 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3-point range and 4 of 5 from the foul line. She added three rebounds, a block and a steal in 31 minutes.
She said the improved effort started on the defensive end of the floor for her team.
“Yesterday in practice we just really worked on pressuring the ball on defense and being a lot more aggressive on defense, just being really energized there which led to our offense,” she said. “I think having a game under our belt and having already played a game together as a team, having another day of practice, we just felt more comfortable out there and played together well.”
The Juniors, who won 82-61 Monday in the Berry Bowl, jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 3:30 of the contest.
The Seniors responded with a run. Jennings started getting to the basket and scored five straight points and gave them their first lead of the game at 16-15 with 9:19 left in the first half.
A Jennings driving basket gave the Seniors a 25-19 lead, and her 3-pointer off a steal and assist by Ana Owens gave them a 30-19 lead with 4:05 left in the half. They held a 33-28 at halftime.
Jennings had a highlight-reel, behind-the-back crossover pullup in the lane to give the Seniors a 40-39 lead with a 16:15 remaining. A Lauren Whitlatch basket one minute later on an assist by Maura Muensterman made it 42-39.
But Jennings went to the bench to get a breather and the Juniors made a run, utilizing the size advantage they showed on Monday. A 3-pointer by Alexa Bailey gave the Juniors a 43-42 lead with 10:00 remaining, completing a 14-2 spurt.
The Seniors battled back. Jennings scored on a three-point play and another driving basket to make it 57-49. She forced a five-second violation that led to a three-point play on a putback by Danielle Cuttino to cut the lead to 58-54 with 6:31 left. Jennings found Cuttino open on an inbounds play to tie the game at 62-all with 4:25 left.
It was a 68-68 game when Maura Muensterman drilled a 3 from the top of the key with a minute to go to give the Seniors the lead.
“When she hit that 3 you could tell her confidence level and the whole team’s confidence went up so that was a huge shot,” Jennings said.
Columbus North’s Ali Patberg answered with a 3 with 40 seconds left to tie the game.
Jennings got to the basket but her left-handed scoop was short. Cuttino was there for the rebound and was fouled. She hit the first in the one-and-bonus to give the Seniors a 72-71 lead with 15.1 seconds left.
Lamina Cooper was short on a jumper and Cuttino grabbed the rebound off the rim and was again fouled. She again hit 1 of 2 free throws with 5.6 seconds left to make it 73-71.
Owens blocked Patberg’s 3-point attempt in the closing seconds and Patberg’s desperation putback attempt from 17 feet was off the mark as the final horn sounded.
Owens, a Cincinnati recruit from Lawrence North, added 15 points, five rebounds and five steals in 28 minutes.
Cuttino, a 6-foot-4 Purdue volleyball recruit from Ben Davis, had 12 points and a team-high eight boards and made the game-winning free throw.
“Having her in there she’s so tall, really lanky, she alters a lot of shots on defense. She stepped up big at the end and hit a couple free throws and rebounded,” Jennings said.
Destiny Washington was also in double figures for the Seniors with 10 points.
Pike’s Brittany Ward led the Juniors with 15 points. Patberg had 14 and Jenna Allen added 10 points and 12 boards.
The Seniors shot just 35.3 percent from the field but held the Juniors to 28.4 percent and forced 23 turnovers.
Logan coach Jerry Hoover noted that Logansport’s Junior All-Star, Nakeya Penny, did not play in the game after making some big plays in the Juniors win on Monday. He added that Seniors coach Eric Thornton of Norwell made some adjustments.
“The Seniors played much better than they did Monday in Logansport. The defense when they contained Whitney will only work so long with good players. So the coach put in a couple of wrinkles there,” Hoover said. “He played Owens more. Whitney and Owens together on defense are pretty dang good. Then the girl from Ben Davis [Cuttino] had a very good game on the boards, around the basket. I thought that was really the big difference. Whitney and Owens played together defensively and it really helped. They forced some turnovers and got the game going a little faster.”
In the boys game the Seniors once again rolled to a win over the Juniors, 124-102. Park Tudor’s Trevon Blueitt (Xavier) had 44 points and 12 rebounds, and Marion’s James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana) added 28 points to lead the Seniors.
The Indiana All-Star teams face Kentucky on Friday at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., starting with the girls game at 5 p.m. Indiana and Kentucky then square off on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.