As the mantra goes, "defense wins championships," and being a part of four sectional title teams, Bishop Noll's Faith Jackson feeds off that mantra more than anybody.
"Defense is my strength. I just love defense," she said. "I go into games thinking they can't score against me and I take pride in locking down the other team's best players. I'm always trying to lock people down. I don't care who the player or what the stats are."
Coming into Noll as a freshman, coach Vanita Golston knew she had a standout defender. However, it's the other parts of her game that have rounded out who they lovingly call "Action Jackson" from more of an athlete to a basketball player.
The Warriors senior bumped her points per game average from 6.9 as a junior to 8.7.
"In my seven years at Noll, Faith is one of the players I've seen the most growth in as she's shown a tremendous amount of growth," Golston said. "She really prides herself in being a lock-down defender and she's a disciplined defender who moves her feet and not many people are getting around her. Her game has grown to more than that the last year or so, as she's looked to the offensive end and she'll run the floor, get open in transition, finish layups and lately, she's been knocking down shots.
"She's got a great first step and is explosive to the basket and when she knocks down those shots, that opens up things for her because teams can't just anticipate the drive. "
As one of three seniors on a Warriors team that has three of their four leading scorers freshmen, Jackson's leadership has shone through in her own way.
"She leads by example first and she's a vocal leader second. She's always been like that but she does well with it," Golston said. "Leadership is a shared responsibility between the seniors. I think Faith is conscious of the legacy of she wants to leave in this program and she's been a standard for hard work for us."
That leadership is something the 5-foot-5 Jackson has grown into, taking bits and pieces from players before her.
"I feel like I improved more as a leader over my career," she said. "When I became a starter, I was scared initially because it was something big but people then showed me how to lead. As a senior, of course I wanted to step up my leadership. I wanted to be like our senior last year Isabel Vasquez but we're two different people, so I had to become a leader in my own way.
"I'm not a very talkative person so I just show what needs to be done through my actions. If the other girls see what I'm doing on the court they can pick up on that and realize what they may need to do."
Track has always been Jackson's first love as the standout hurdler has three sectional crowns to her name. The gene pool is strong, too with Jackson's parents in mom, Maria Jackson-Gibbs, and dad, Tarshma Jackson, Sr., being athletes in their days. Her brother, Tarshma, Jr., is a junior football player at Dubuque University in Iowa and sister, Brianna. is a sophomore track athlete at Noll. When asked if she's faster than all of them, she was quick to respond 'yes.'
While Jackson plans to put that speed to use on the track in college, the elusive basketball regional title remains in her sights as the Warriors have yet to get win it in each of the last four seasons, reaching the final just once. The task will be tall with No. 6 North Judson in the first round as Noll looks for its second regional crown and first since 1990.
"I want us to have heart and while I know I don't wanna do basketball after high school, I still wanna make it out of regionals," Jackson said. "Our attitude is the main thing and we have to play as one and it'll take lots of heart and discipline, everyone will have to want it. I feel like our freshmen will be ready for it because they know our seniors have been here four times and they want it for us, too.
"We left that legacy of winning sectional championships, but we want to get that regional. That would mean a lot."