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Penn keeps state title hopes alive behind a full team concept

Lady Kingsmen heads to Terre Haute to take on defending 4A champ Bedford North Lawrence.

Posted on March 5, 2014 at 6:23 p.m.

MISHAWAKA — Penn doesn't have that headline-dominating all-star.

Bedford North Lawrence has Alexa Bailey. Gary West Side had Dana Evans. Logansport had Whitney Jennings.

But the Penn machine is the sum of many parts — well-oiled cogs that rely on each other to run steadily and smoothly. Coach Kristi Kaniewski Ulrich prefers things to operate on that team-centered mentality rather than that one 25-point scoring standout.

The Kingsmen's run to the state championship game has instead relied on intelligent, adaptable post play by sisters Camryn and Caroline Buhr, the defensive tenacity of Lauren Ellenberger, the level-headedness of Kaitlyn Marenyi, the fiery passion of Jessi Alexander and the sixth-man reliability of Kamra Solomon.

"They're all key components, key pieces in the puzzle," Kaniewski Ulrich said. "We want to maintain balance, and we want to build everyone around us." 

Kaitlyn Marenyi, sophomore guard

Marenyi, Penn's starting point guard, doesn't dominate the stat line, but she is charged with getting the offensive machine in motion.

"She's pretty steady out there," Kaniewski Ulrich said. "Not flashy. She helps control the point and can knock down some open shots for us. Another long defender."

Lauren Ellenberger, junior guard

Ellenberger, called "a sparkplug" by Kaniewski Ulrich, is often charged with locking down the opposing team's best guard.

"Lauren is a great defender," guard Jessi Alexander said. "Having her play and be a pest on defense. She stopped Whitney Jennings, Dana Evans. We put her on those types of players because we know she can handle it."

Jessi Alexander, senior guard

If Caroline Buhr is the statistical leader of the team, Alexander is the emotional leader. The senior said it's been a life-long dream to lead her team to the biggest stage against the best possible opponent.

"She's just kind of our backbone, she holds everybody together," Kaniewski Ulrich said. "She plays with a lot of heart, a lot of emotion. She lights a fire and sparks it underneath the rest of her teammates."

Caroline Buhr, senior forward

Caroline Buhr leads the team with 11.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. She's the long, lanky veteran who can guard anyone on the court and also finish strong under the bucket.

"They're very smart," Alexander said of Caroline and sister Camryn. "If they have a girl who they know goes for the shot fake, they're going to shot fake. They're really good at finishing at the rim."

Camryn Buhr, sophomore forward

Camyrn Buhr is just behind sister Caroline with 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. As a sophomore, she's already establishing her toughness in the post.

"Underneath, she is a huge rebounder," guard Kamra Solomon said of Camryn. "She's not the biggest, but she's so tough. That's what we look for in her."

Kamra Solomon, sophomore guard

Solomon isn't a starter, but she's almost always the first one off the bench and into the frenzy. She's as capable of coming up with a defensive stop as she is hitting a clutch 3-pointer.

"She's a bulldog," Kaniewski Ulrich said. "Tough, gritty, a true athlete. She's clutch. She can knock down tough shots."

There's also Claire Carlton and Casey Morton, who have come off the bench to sink key shots for the Kingsmen. 

Penn will arrive in Terre Haute on Saturday, March 8, as underdogs, an afterthought to No. 2 Bedford North Lawrence, which is helmed by Indiana basketball legend Damon Bailey. 

"They're definitely going to look at us as underdogs," Kaniewski Ulrich said. "Not only because they're ranked higher than us but because they won the state last year. We'll definitely use that as motivation."

The state championship was played last weekend, doubters say, when the Stars knocked off No. 1 Lawrence North in the Bedford semistate.

That's just fine. The Penn machine has no problem flying under the radar.

"People down in Indy don't really know what Penn basketball is all about," Alexander said. "So it's a good opportunity to show them."

Penn

Record: 25-1

Coach: Kristi Kaniewski Ulrich

Points per game: 59.5

Field goal percentage: 49.8 percent

Free throw percentage: 68.1 percent

Top scorers: Caroline Buhr (11.2 points per game), Camryn Buhr (10.6)

Top rebounders: Caroline Buhr (5.7 rebounds per game), Camryn Buhr (5.4)

Bedford North Lawrence

Record: 26-1

Coach: Damon Bailey

Points per game: 63.7

Field goal percentage: 51.1 percent

Free throw percentage: 71.9 percent

Top scorers: Dominique McBryde (15.2 points per game), Jenna Allen (15.0).

Top rebounders: Jenna Allen (8.6 rebounds per game), Dominique McBryde (6.7)

2014 Girls Basketball State Championship

All games Saturday, March 8, at the Hulman Center, Terre Haute

Class A Vincennes Rivet (22-4) vs. Oregon-Davis (22-2) at 10:30 a.m.

Class 2A Heritage Christian (26-1) vs. Fort Wayne Canterbury (20-4) to follow.

Class 3A Evansville Mater Dei (26-1) vs. Western (22-3) at 6 p.m.

Class 4A Bedford North Lawrence (26-1) vs. Penn (25-1) to follow.

 




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