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This week's Peak Performer: Thomas Jackson, Harrison boys' basketball
Moriah Ceballes, James Irwin
The standout freshman scored 39 points in two games, highlighted by a 22-point effort Saturday in rallying the Jaguars past La Junta, 46-43. Ceballes hit three 3-pointers in a loss to CSCS on Thursday, then made all seven of her field-goal attempts on Saturday. Ceballes is averaging 15.7 points over the first seven games of her high school career.
Julian Claudio, Lewis-Palmer
The third-year player recorded a hat trick Friday to fuel the Rangers to a 5-4, come-from-behind win over Bishop Machebeuf. The eruption highlighted a three-game stretch in which Claudio scored five goals and added two assists. He scored six goals all of last season.
Emily Hand, Discovery Canyon
The junior, who qualified for state in two events last season, started the victorious 200 medley relay at Cheyenne Mountain and later claimed victory in the 100 backstroke. Two days later in a dual against Coronado, she helped Discovery Canyon win two relays and won convincingly in the 200 individual medley.
Caleb Cuneio, Air Academy
The senior went 4-1 at the Warrior Classic in Grand Junction over the weekend, falling only to Fruita Monument’s Jacob Seely, the state’s top-ranked 5A wrestler at 170 pounds, by a 4-2 decision. Cuneio recorded a pair of pins and a major decision during earlier competition. For the season, Cuneio, a 4A state qualifier last season, is 13-2.
Thomas Jackson likes where this is heading. A new coach, a fresh start and a back-to-basics mentality seem to be doing wonders at Harrison.
Leading the charge on the court is Jackson, a 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard, who averaged nearly 22 points in three games last week, helping his Panthers to a 2-1 mark in their annual tournament and improving to 4-2.
Harrison went 8-16 last season.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now,” Jackson said. “Last year, it wasn’t like this. This year, we have a new coach (Al Blanc) who's willing to take us all the way to the top, and he has the guys working harder. We’re stressing defense first.”
In Harrison’s four wins, its opponents have not scored more than 55 points.
“Like I told all the kids, we’re going to hold you accountable for all you do, and it’s important to do the right thing,” Blanc said. “Our main goal is to work hard, hang our hats on defense and good things will happen. Thomas is a very good player, and we’re trying to get the best out of him that we can.”
Jackson scored 27 points in Friday’s overtime victory against Smoky Hill and added 21 in a 75-64 setback to Pueblo South on Saturday. He also leads the team with 4.8 rebounds per game and is among the leaders in assists and steals.
He put up similar numbers last year, averaging 14.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, but lacked intensity and work ethic.
That isn’t a problem with a new chief in charge.
“Last year, I really didn’t work hard enough,” Jackson said. “I was lazy and never got in trouble for it. This year, it’s a whole different story. I get in trouble for being lazy or not doing things right on defense and offense. Coach keeps us focused.”
As a sophomore, Jackson learned under then-senior Xavier Ford, who averaged 27.4 points a game during the 2010-11 season in leading the Panthers to the second round of the 4A state tournament.
He watched the hard work and dedication required to be not only a talented player, but a respected leader. Now, it’s Jackson’s turn to provide that type of senior leadership. And who knows, maybe a return visit to the state tournament.
“I took a lot from (Xavier) when he was here,” Jackson said. “He had a work-hard mentality and a never-quit mentality. I’m just taking those mentalities with me and always working hard, and keeping positive."