The junior forward’s performance Saturday was befitting of the fifth-ranked Trojans’ season, showcasing all-around skills en route to scoring 15 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in a 58-38 victory over No. 14 Wise that earned Gaithersburg its first state title at UMBC’s RAC Arena.
“I didn’t really feel that anyone could stop me,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s was a sentiment the Trojans carried all season. Following a runner-up finish last year, the Trojans won all 25 of their games by an average of 28 points and none closer than 11. Gaithersburg became just the second Montgomery County school to claim a 4A title in the past 24 years (Churchill won in both 2002 and ’03).
“It’s done,” Gaithersburg Coach Adrian McDaniel said. “Our motto all year long was ‘25-0. Unfinished business.’ ”
Wise Coach Walter Clark said: “They act like they’re 25-0. They act like it was their trophy.”
Virtually every key player from last year’s team came back for the Trojans, and Jackson, who transferred from Holy Cross, might have been the missing piece. She proved to be the perfect inside balance to Gaithersburg’s strong guard attack, and she made her presence felt immediately against Wise (21-6).
Jackson had 12 points and 10 rebounds as Gaithersburg took a 28-17 halftime lead. She backed a zone defense that kept the Pumas on the perimeter, where they struggled, making just 5 of 32 first-half shots, and 13 of 62 for the game. Wise could not follow up its misses, with Jackson owning the boards.
“That was a concern we’ve had all year, settling for jump shots,” Clark said. “We definitely need to get to the basket to see if we could get [Jackson] some fouls. We needed to get her out of there.”
Even though the Trojans were in control throughout, they didn’t pull away until late.
The key sequence came with Gaithersburg leading 36-30 in the final minute of the third quarter, Gaithersburg turned it over and Wise had a chance to cut the margin to four, the closest since it was 8-5 early in the first quarter.
Wise, however, missed a short turnaround in the lane, and Gaithersburg pushed it back upcourt before Deja Rollins hit a short jumper in the lane at the buzzer to make it 38-30. Wise never drew any closer.
“It’s a great hustle play,” McDaniel said. “It was a big shot.”