By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Ashley Jackson is at her third high school. She began at Wildwood Catholic and remained there for two scholastic years before moving on to Vineland.
This scholastic year, she returned to her roots at Lower Cape May Regional, back in the community where she grew up.
Through all of the change, brought about mostly due to family reasons, Jackson has played basketball.
And, boy, can she play.
Jackson has emerged as one of the top scorers in Cape-Atlantic League girls basketball. The 5-7 senior is averaging 19.3 points per game for what is otherwise a young Lower team that takes a record of 6-12 into Friday’s home game against Holy Spirit.
Jackson enters that contest needing just nine points for 1,000 for her career.
“I’d rather win more than anything,” Jackson said, “but getting to 1,000 points will mean a lot to me.”
Jackson showed great potential at Wildwood Catholic, often scoring in double figures as a sophomore. But she left the North Wildwood school right after basketball season ended that year and wound up at Vineland. She sat out the first 30 days under NJSIAA transfer rules but managed to continue her high-scoring ways when she returned.
Then, after moving back to the Lower Township community after last scholastic year, Jackson was eligible to play immediately for the Lady Tigers, where she’s provided needed leadership, according to coach Mike Pittman.
“Her experience in general, having played four years of varsity, coming into a younger team, it gave a lot of our players someone to look up to,” Pittman said. “She came in here knowing what needed to be done and how hard you needed to work to compete at this level.”
With Jackson, Pittman has never needed to prod her to work hard.
“She’s the hardest-working player I’ve ever coached,” Pittman said. “You never need to give her extra incentive to get out and play hard. She gives it 100 percent every single play.”
Jackson’s versatility has helped the Lady Tigers form into a competitive team. Ball handling, scoring, rebounding, defense — Jackson has displayed a willingness to do whatever it takes.
Jackson attended grammar school in Lower Township, so she already knew most of her teammates when she arrived at Lower Cape May at the start of the school year.
“I went (to school in Lower) when I was younger, so it really wasn’t that hard to fit in when I came back,” she said. “They welcomed me to the team. I knew Annabella (Halbruner) pretty well. We’re the only seniors. And me and (junior) Winter (Favre) were always really close.
“It’s been hard (attending three schools in four years) but I just kind of went with it. I like playing the game. Wherever I can play it, I’m going to play.
“I feel like I’m pretty adaptable,” Jackson added. “(Attending three different high schools) definitely changed me a lot as a person, too. I went from, like, 30 kids in my class at Wildwood Catholic to this huge school at Vineland. There were thousands of kids there. Then I went to Lower. It’s not as small as Wildwood Catholic but it’s not nearly as big as Vineland.”
One of the highlights of Jackson’s season — and her career — came last week when Lower Cape May posted a surprising 63-41 upset win over Oakcrest. Jackson poured in a career-high 35 points in the win.
Pittman said it’s been a pleasure having Jackson in the program.
“She came in and she bonded well with her teammates right away,” he said. “As the year progressed on, she’s gotten a lot better at team basketball. You take Ashley off a young team like ours and there’s no way we have the amount of wins we have and we’re definitely not as competitive. She brings scoring, rebounding, defense, energy and hustle to every game. That’s meant a lot to us.”