With the help of a senior-dominated lineup and a team-first attitude, Jackson's girls basketball team has racked up a 12-2 start heading into today's Notre Dame Shootout.
"Since I've been coaching it seems to just happen," Jackson coach Sam Sides said. "Most of my teams are balanced. Everyone contributes."
Jackson will play Nerinx Hall in the finale of the three-game shootout.
Coming off a third-place finish in the state tournament, the Indians were left with several question marks entering the season. Not only did Jackson have a new head coach in longtime assistant Sam Sides, but it also had to replace seniors Jenna Leet, Whitney Werner and Jessica Koeper.
The Indians have put away any question marks during a strong first half of the season. Much of that success has come from a strong team defense and a balanced scoring attack, which has seen all five starters contribute through the team's 14 games.
"This year we've focussed more on the team," senior guard Katie Loos said. "We don't have one marquee girl."
A tough move made to look easy
Returning starter Ashley Bartels leads the team in scoring despite changing positions from guard to the post. Bartels, a four-year starter for the Indians, has made the transition smoothly.
"She's played everywhere," Sides said. "She's super-intelligent, a super hard worker and she's done really well posting up."
Loos, who was a starter last season until a knee injury ended her season, has been a catalyst at point guard with her steady ball handling and strong outside shooting. Senior guards Linden Hahs and Jennifer Ferrell and sophomore forward Bobbie Jones round out Jackson's starting five.
"We've had a strong start, and the chemistry on this team is excellent," Loos said.
Among the Indians' 12 wins are strong showings against St. Louis schools Cor Jesu and Visitation, as well as ending Poplar Bluff's 34-game home winning streak.
Jackson still has eight regular season games as well as the Fisher Pro-Line Tournament left before a likely rematch with the Mules in the district tournament.
Loos said the girls think they can make another trip to the state finals.
"We know the only way to get there is by playing together," she said.
335-6611, extension 171