Howard's Jackson over 1,000 points and going strong


Mona Jackson had missed a layup before, so she wondered why everyone in the Liberty High gym seemed to be laughing at her.

But the crowd knew something that Jackson did not. Going up for that layup, the Howard senior needed those two points to hit 1,000.

"I was the only one in the gym who didn't know," said Jackson, who hit the milestone with two free throws a minute later in a win over Northeast at the Liberty Belle Tournament Dec. 27.

"I had a fast-break layup wide open and I missed it and the whole crowd was like, 'What's the matter with you?' I thought they're just yelling at me and I still didn't know."

Even as coach Craig O'Connell called his team off the floor for the presentation, Jackson was hollering to her teammates to get back on defense. She did not realize what she had done until the announcement was made.

"I wish I had had a camera," said O'Connell, "because her face just lit up. She had no idea, no idea at all. That was one of the best-kept secrets I've ever had."

Said Jackson: "I couldn't stop smiling. My eyes were watering, because I wanted to cry. It was just overwhelming. It's like a privilege, because I'm one of only three girls at Howard ever to reach 1,000."

One more record awaits her. Sometime next month, Jackson likely will become the Lions' all-time leading scorer.

No one has hit 1,000 faster, so if she maintains anywhere close to her 21-point average, Jackson would break Kristi Greer's 1990 record of 1,298.

"When Kristi graduated," said O'Connell, "I remember telling [a reporter] that I can only hope somebody comes into the building next year who will give me so many points, so many rebounds -- and I gave him the exact figures that I wanted. Of course, Mona Jackson shows up as a freshman and scores well over 200 points."

Jackson is also a two-time state high jump champion and a three-time county long jump and triple jump champ. In those three events, she has medaled at states seven times and never finished worse than fifth.

But basketball is her first love, and this year, Jackson has emerged as one of the county's best.

"Mona's real athletic," said Mount Hebron guard Alisha Mosley. "She jumps higher than everyone on our team put together. She's got a good move and she's real hard to stop."

In her first three seasons, Jackson showed glimpses of how good she could be, but she never was consistent. She got frustrated easily, had some disagreements with O'Connell and even left the team briefly last year. Now she has put all that behind her.

"This year, I couldn't ask her to do any more than she's doing," said O'Connell. "She plays very hard. She's working real hard at practice. I couldn't be more pleased with her effort."

At the Liberty Belle Tournament, Jackson was Most Valuable Player for totaling 53 points, 27 rebounds, 16 steals, 10 assists and nine blocks.

Wednesday, she had 15 points and 14 rebounds and had the No. 14 Lions on the verge of upsetting No. 2 Hammond before they fell, 53-50.

Jackson's transformation actually began at the end of last season.

"The state championship last year -- that really got me," said Jackson, who helped the Lions emerge from the sixth-seeded spot in the regionals to win the Class 3A state title.

Jackson scored 22 in the state semifinals and 13 in the title game against DuVal, in which she sealed the 47-41 win with a breakaway layup with 24 seconds left.

As a senior, Jackson wants to carry on the standard set by some of her former teammates.

"We always had a person that would dive on the floor for a ball and be the main hustler.. . . . Now this year, it was like no one was there, and I felt like it was my responsibility to step up. Now I'm the person that has to hustle."

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