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ACL Surgery Will Force Jackson into Rehab Mode Soph Sees Future Success for BHS Girls Five

Maya Jackson averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds before an ACL injury ended her sophomore season.

Bulletin Sports Writer
The Bellingham High girls’ basketball team, which started the 2022-23 season with a new coach in Bob Pingeton, was eager to show it could improve on the previous year’s 5-15 record. And, with only two seniors on the roster, the girls were ready to prove they could compete vigorously in spite of having a plethora of underclassmen in the rotation.
An opening night 49-36 victory over Nipmuc in a non-league game was a sign that maybe rebuilding the program wouldn’t be such a Herculean task.
Four consecutive losses, however, followed. But, when the school’s annual Hutchinson Memorial Tournament got underway after Christmas, optimism and hope were in the air.
Unfortunately, Maya Jackson, the team’s highly-skilled guard-forward, suffered a non-contact injury in the second quarter against Douglas. She went up for a pass and came down hard, injuring her right knee. 
Sidelined for a month before she could get an MRI, Jackson, her coach and teammates hoped that the three dreaded letters — A-C-L — wouldn’t be uttered. 
They were. 
“I got the results the last week of January,’’ Jackson said. “I suffered a torn ACL, and I’ll likely be sidelined for nine months (surgery is scheduled for March 16). As soon as I got hurt, I was disappointed. I was playing well against Douglas (six points in the first quarter). And, before I got hurt, I felt like I could contribute and have a solid season. Our team was just starting to show progress.’’
The 5-foot-10 Jackson, who’s only a sophomore, was averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds during her five games before the injury.
“It’s tough to lose Maya,’’ Pingeton said. “She’s a huge asset for us in the frontcourt. A potential Tri Valley League all-star, she can rebound, score, block shots and cause deflections.’’
Jackson, who was born in Germany, grew up in Europe. Since both her parents chose military careers in the Army, she showed resilience attending different schools in different towns and cities. “I spent time in Europe,’’ she said. “I first started playing basketball at 12 and have played at the club level.’’
Her team-first approach and passion for basketball are ingredients that both her coach and teammates admired.
A varsity starter as an eighth-grader, Jackson averaged seven points and five rebounds as a freshman. Pingeton could tell early on that her ability would be a key for his rebuilding squad. 
“Maya is a hard-worker who has a high basketball IQ, good technique, and she’s able to score on a jump shot or a drive,’’ he said. “A good finisher, she’s disciplined, rebounds very well and can shoot three-pointers. She’s an even-keel competitor.’’
Jackson’s teammates took care of business after she left the Douglas game. They rolled to a 52-28 triumph, then captured the tourney championship by edging Ursuline Academy, 43-40.
“Everyone will have to step up,’’ were the words Pingeton emphasized after losing Jackson. He’s acutely aware that her loss dampened the season, but he also knew that his younger players would gain experience and build confidence in her absence.
“Maya’s loss affected wins and losses this season,’’ he said, “but the program will progress and be stronger in the long run. I’m excited about next year. Maya will return, and our experience and depth will improve. We’re trying to rebuild this program so it’ll be competitive from year to year. We finished the regular season with two eighth-graders on the team.’’
After capturing the Hutchinson Tourney title, the girls have struggled, going winless in 13 games.
Meanwhile, Jackson, who vows to be motivated and intense during her rebab stint, is already talking about her goals for next year.
“First, I want to be totally healthy and ready to compete,’’ she emphasized. “Then, I’d like to see us be competitive in the TVL Small Division and qualify for the playoffs. I also want to be more communicative. A tourney berth is realistic because we’ll have talent, experience, and depth. A commitment to work hard during the summer will also be a plus.’’
Her rehab regimen will include riding a stationary bike, physical therapy, and squats. “I can deal with the physical part of rehab but the mental part will be tough,’’ she said. “There’s the unknown and the fear of getting hurt again.’’
The 16-year-old Jackson showed lots of class by attending every practice and every game after her injury. She likes her coach’s motivating style and respects all her teammates, especially two backcourt players — senior co-captain Kylie Walden and sophomore Calleigh Elder. 
“Coach Pingeton knows the game and knows how to motivate his players,’’ she emphasized. “He’s persistent but not aggressive, and he brings out the best in his players.  
“Kylie is a great leader and an all-around player. She’s a good shooter, she’s aggressive on defense and passes well. Calleigh is very quick, she can pass or score effectively and is aggressive on both ends of the court.’’ 
Jackson hopes she can recover from surgery in time to play volleyball in the tourney, if the Blackhawks qualify. A three-time TVL all-star as an outside hitter, she says basketball is still her favorite sport, and she plans to continue playing in college.
“Basketball is so much fun,’’ she said. “It’s up-tempo and there’s options. I enjoy driving for a basket and drawing a foul. Or driving, then kicking it out to a teammate for a jumper. On defense what’s enjoyable are blocks and steals.’’
Calling her parents (Travis and Adriana) role models because of their support and encouragement, Jackson relies on an athletic philosophy that focuses on reaching her potential and having fun. “If that’s occurring, then winning will follow,’’ she said. 
Several life lessons Jackson has learned from playing volleyball and basketball are to always give 100 percent, to be a good teammate and to think team first. 
“Another great lesson is how to deal with and overcome adversity,’’ she emphasized. “Adversity helps to be resilient and to be able to bounce back.’’
That final life lesson will be crucial for Maya Jackson in the days ahead. 
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