The new and improved Shalane Jackson has a little more bounce to her step, plays with a little more fire in her belly and displays a little more touch in her shooting stroke.
The fourth-year senior is motivated by her disappointing 2010-11 season, but she is also ecstatic to be reunited with talented sophomore Tia Tu’uga.
The former travel-ball teammates and one-time rivals each poured in 18 points, leading East Union’s promising, yet sometimes-shaky, 55-43 season-opening win over visiting Bear Creek Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them together a lot more,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said.
Jackson was shut out in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls, so Tu’uga did more damage early on. The 5-foot-10 Tu’uga, who transferred from rival Manteca High over the summer, scored eight of her 18 points in the first quarter and added 13 rebounds, six steals and five blocks.
Jackson also recorded a double-double, pulling down 12 rebounds including eight on the offensive end.
“It was amazing,” Jackson said. “I’ve played with Tia before, so it was like old times.”
But these are also new times for Jackson, who had played almost exclusively from the post over her first three varsity seasons at East Union. She proved capable of playing all positions on Wednesday, occasionally leading the fastbreak, making nifty passes from the wing and showing off nifty moves from the low post.
Perhaps the most drastic improvement made is at the free-throw line. She converted 10 of 13 from the stripe and drained seven in the fourth quarter
“I’ve been shooting (free throws) like crazy since the summer,” Jackson said. “I was expecting to make all of them actually.”
“We’re talking about a player who shot about 33 percent from the foul line last year,” Agostini said. “She put the work in.”
The Lancers (1-0) have more work to put in as a whole.
East Union struggled to put Bear Creek (0-2) away after taking its largest lead, 30-14, late in the second quarter on Tu’uga’s layup assisted by an inbounds pass from Klasey Kachalkin.
The Bruins stayed within striking distance by forcing 23 turnovers off their pressure defense. They closed the deficit to nine, 41-32, with 46 seconds remaining thanks to Alyssa Santos’ 3-pointer, which followed back-to-back long-range buckets by Sophana Mao.
“We have a lot of work just like everybody else does,” Agostini said. “Like I told the girls, as a coach you can think selfishly and wish that you were at midseason form right now, but the reality is that we have to be willing to put the hard work in first to get there.”
Kristen Piasecki contributed eight points, six rebounds and three blocks for EU, and Kachalkin chipped in seven points and four assists. Dominique Brown paced Bear Creek with 10 points, and the 5-3 guard also blocked four shots.
Bear Creek 54, East Union 24
The Bruins of Stockton blew open an 18-4 first-quarter lead and never looked back. Sam Hines and Marina Salyer each scored seven points apiece for the Squires.
East Union 43, Bear Creek 22
Rena Dragony produced 11 points and 13 rebounds as the Pages cruised to a season-opening victory.
Destiny Flores scored a team-high 12 points to go with four assists and four steals. Samantha Gonzalez added nine points and seven rebounds, while Tia Torio had five and six.