The Atascocita girls basketball program is preparing for a second consecutive trip to the UIL playoffs. After winning district last season they are in good position to reclaim their title. Coach Valerie Jackson and her players talked to us about the importance of camaraderie and the work ethic it’s going to take as they head into the post season.
Atascocita has a wave of youth in the program with sophomore twins, Diamond and Jada Johnson, return after gathering a year of varsity experience as freshmen last season. “They came in and caught my eye because they had improved so much over the summer,” Coach Jackson said. There are also several juniors that have been on the team since their freshman season.
In November the girls competed in the Aldine Tournament and defeated Kinkaid, 62-43, Westfield, 53-40, Nimitz, 54-37, and Port Arthur Memorial, 56-54, to clinch the tournament championship. They then competed in the Katy Nike Invitational Tournament where they defeated Katy, 60-40, Langham Creek, 50-38, Katy Taylor, 43-35, and The Woodlands, 59-51. In Duncanville at the Sandra Meadows Tournament they competed in three games defeating Westbury Christian, 43-39, and falling to Westside, 67-59, and Heritage, 54-49. “The competition was good. We got to get some different looks that we wouldn’t get in district play that I think will help us once the playoffs start,” Coach Jackson stated.
A year ago Atascocita shared the district title with Dekaney High School as both teams finished 15-1 in district play. Part of that success was from the year before when they had finished 5th place in their district, missing the playoffs by one game. The next day, after the devastation of missing the playoffs by that small of a margin, the girls made a bold decision: next season starts now! “The very next day we went straight into practice like it was season,” Coach Jackson remembered. “We practiced hard and the kids bought in.” It marked the first time that the basketball program failed to reach the playoffs since Coach Jackson has been at the helm. The Lady Eagles went from 5th to 1st in the same district the following year!
In the 2014 UIL playoffs the girls won their first round matchup in convincing fashion against Lufkin, 65-33. In the area round of the playoffs their run came to an end as the fell to Cedar Ridge, 78-66. “For those girls knowing it was the last time they were wearing the Atascocita uniform, it was frustrating,” Coach Jackson admitted. “We really feel like we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Coach Jackson feels that they should win district if they stay focused. They have only one loss in district and can secure the title if they win their final games. Realistically, Atascocita has talked about getting to the regional tournament. “If we shoot the ball well and stay out of foul trouble, we’re hard to beat,” coach Jackson stated. TheLlady Eagles are depending on players such as Captain and Tennessee Tech commit, Anacia Wilkinson, to help lead the way. “We need to keep working hard and practice and keep bonding as a team,” Wilkinson said. Shae Moore, whom is not a point guard, took on that role and has excelled, scoring close to 20-points a game for Atascocita. “We need to stay focused and be prepared for everything,” Moore said. Junior Hannah Hopkins takes on the role of power forward/center for the team. “We need to keep the intensity up and stick together,” Hopkins said.
During Christmas break the girls head over to Wentworth Senior Living and decorated trees, wrapped presents, baked Christmas cookies, and sang Christmas carols. “We do that every year,” Coach Jackson said. Last year they had their 1st Annual 3-on-3 Fight Against Cancer Basketball Tournament partnering with Delta Airlines in which the girls donated their time working the clock, refereeing, and helping the concession stands. All the proceeds go towards the fight against cancer campaign. This year, at the Humble ISD Special Kids Livestock Show and Rodeo, the girls will volunteer their time there as well.
Coach Jackson has had influences on her life and coaching career including her grandfather, Kelly Chadwick, and Pat Summit. She attended Morton High School where she played basketball and was a part of the 1988 state championship team. She then went on to play at Abilene Christian University playing basketball for the school.
“Work today for what you want tomorrow” is the message talked about frequently in Atacocita. Not only does the coaching staff want them to use it on the court but in the classrooms and community as well.
Written by Mark M. Johnson