Girls Basketball: Jackie Cardona named Beacon-News Player of the YearAurora Central Catholic senior Jackie Cardona is this years Beacon-News Girls BBall Player of the year. Here she poses for a photo inside ACC's gym. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2012 10:56PM
When Aurora Central Catholic senior Jackie Cardona led the Chargers to their first Class 2A state tournament appearance this season, she arrived in Normal 25 points shy of Andrea Taylor’s ACC career scoring record.
She only scored 11 points in her two games at state — falling 14 points shy of the record — but dished out 10 assists, which coach Mark Fitzgerald says may tell more about the character and unselfishness of Cardona than if she had emerged from state with that record.
“She could have shot from all over the place,” Fitzgerald said. “She always kept herself in the game and did her best. She was a marked person at state. A lot of people concentrated on her. She found people open. It was more important for the team to score than for her to score. That does say a lot about her.”
Despite the fact that she does not hold the title of all-time leading scorer, the mark Cardona left on the program is indelible. The past two seasons, the Chargers set new records for wins, first 19 victories and the program’s first regional title her junior year, and then 25 wins, another regional crown and the first sectional title and state trip in the program’s history.
“There’s no doubt in my mind she’s the best ever,” Fitzgerald said. “I never got a chance to see Taylor play, but Jackie put us on the map. Now the kids are looking forward to what we can do next, and that’s because of Jackie and the other seniors.”
When it was all over after the Chargers fell to Stillman Valley, 41-40, in the third-place game, Cardona was more quiet than usual at the postgame press conference, overcome by emotion as the unbelievable run came to a close. Now a few weeks removed from that moment, Cardona has had a chance to put it in perspective.
“It was just a wonderful experience,” Cardona said. “It was kind of crazy to see how much it meant to our school. When we were down there, we weren’t shocked, but we couldn’t believe we were there. A few weeks after, we’re still like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we went downstate.’”
Instead of resting on her achievements on the hardwood, Cardona’s need to keep busy. Her love of sports finds her on the track, a sport she hasn’t participated in since middle school, this spring after some nudging from basketball teammate Kendall Adams.
“At first we said we would just do jumps, but they figured out that we’re really fast, so today we were practicing handoffs (for relays),” Cardona said. “I have to keep busy.”
Cardona has picked up more interest from college programs looking for her services thanks to the deep run in the postseason and her solid play the past three years, but she has not made a decision on where she will head in the fall.
One thing is for certain, wherever she winds up, Fitzgerald will miss having her around.
“She had a lot of pressure on her and has never cracked,” Fitzgerald said. “She kept her composure. I feel very honored to have worked with her and she’s the standard now for girls who want to play at ACC.”