Opponents of the Northwest University women’s basketball team feel plenty of rejection.
Jessalyn Jackson sees to that.
The Fort Vancouver High School graduate leads NAIA Division II with 80 blocked shots and her average of 6.15 a game, and also tops the list in total rebounds (12.5 a game). She is hitting a statistical trifecta in the Cascade Collegiate Conference in scoring (22.0 points a game), rebounding and blocks.
An All-CCC honorable mention selection as a sophomore and First Team pick last season, Jackson said she knew she had to step up even more as a senior.
“Definitely, I thought about more responsibility coming into this season — taking that role as a leader,” she said.
Leading the conference in three major statistical categories, and also fourth in field goal percentage at 52.0 percent (104 of 200), Jackson said she takes most pride in blocking shots “because that’s our help-side defense and being there for my team. … I definitely take pride in my help side defense, and with help side come tons of blocks for me. I just tell my teammates — so they don’t get fouls, actually, because usually when somebody’s driving to the rim, they’re going to get fouled — for a couple of years now, I’ve been telling my teammates: ‘Let them come. After you get beat, just stop and I’m right there.’”
Saturday in Portland, Jackson set a CCC record by swatting away 13 shot attempts in an 82-62 victory over the Cavaliers.
“That last game there, they were just putting in my hand, I swear,” Jackson said after also breaking her own single-game school record of 10 blocks.
Not that she knew what she had done.
“I didn’t know until after the game that I had 13,” she said. “I didn’t even know that was the record.”
It’s almost enough to make one wonder why teams keep attacking the basket with Jackson in the way.
“I think that all the time,” she said. “Most of the time, toward the end of the game, they’ll start to get the ball down there and see who’s behind them and they toss it right back out. That’s been kind of a trend throughout the season.”
Jackson does most of her scoring in the paint and from the free throw line, she said, with the occasional mid-range jumper. Opponents typically either play zone defense against the Eagles or double-team Jackson in the post, she said, so she has to know when to kick the ball back outside.
Saturday’s win at Concordia showed how effective that can be, when Jackson and guard Emily Drivstuen each scored 27 points.
Blocks became a big part of Jackson’s game as a Fort senior, she said, when, “People would say things like, ‘Get 10 blocks for me!’ I knew it was my thing. Freshman year in college, I was a little timid, and then after my freshman year, it started to take off again. Now it’s my senior year, and it’s my last chance to do anything with it, so I’ve been going extra hard in all of these games.”
Most of Jackson’s block happen when opponents somehow forget that she is there.
“I can take care of business on my own girl, for sure,” she said of her defensive assignments. “But a lot of (blocks) come from me leaving my girl for a second and they dish it back to my girl. I think the length of my arms really confuses people. They’re not as far away from me as they think. That’s something I’ve done since high school.”
The key to blocking shots, Jackson said, is discipline and patience.
“It’s a lot of patience, trying not to jump,” she said. “That’s where a lot of people get into foul trouble, and where I used to get into foul trouble, too. My coach taught me a lot about staying and waiting. I’m already taller than the people who are shooting, anyway, and if I jump, I can get that foul. Sometimes I get those anyway, because it’s so hard not to jump, but I’m OK with that. It’s all about patience and keeping your eye on the ball. If the ball’s anywhere within a 5-foot radius of the hoop, I swear I’m just zoned in on the ball.”
With six players gone from last year’s team, the regrouping Eagles lost four of their first five games this season, but are now 7-8. Home games this weekend against Oregon Institute of Technology and Southern Oregon conclude the first round of conference games. Northwest is 3-4 in CCC play. Their losses to co-leaders Eastern Oregon and College of Idaho were by a total of 10 points, with one an overtime game.
Eight of the 10 CCC teams advance to the postseason tournament, with the winner claiming an automatic berth in the national tournament.
“We started off pretty bumpy, but we’re clicking, finally, and I think that getting into the second half of the season is going to really push us,” Jackson said.
Big Sky honors again for PSU’s Lanz
Portland State’s Kate Lanz was named Big Sky Conference women’s basketball player of the week twice in the past three weeks.
Lanz, who grew up in Vancouver and is a graduate of Portland’s Central Catholic High School, was honored by the conference both Dec. 26 and on Monday for her performances during the previous weeks.
The 5-foot-10 sophomore guard averaged 16.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in PSU wins in December over UC Davis and Denver at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Shootout in Honolulu.
Lanz averaged 16.5 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and a steal in Portland State’s victories, 68-57 over the Aggies on Dec. 19 and 70-66 over the Pioneers on Dec. 20.
Lanz shared this week’s honor with Idaho State’s Kaela Oakes after leading the Vikings to Big Sky road victories over Northern Arizona and Weber State. She averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals, while shooting 56.7 percent from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc and 92.2 percent at the line.
Portland State won 84-74 at NAU on Thursday and 66-56 on Saturday at Weber State.
Lanz has posted double-doubles in each of the team’s past five games. She is second in the Big Sky in scoring (19.1 points a game) and rebounding (8.7 a game). She is also third in field goal percentage (51.9 percent), and free-throw percentage (85.7 percent).
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