Standing at the foul line with 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Mercedes Jackson was trying to think about anything other than the milestone staring her in the face.
"I knew where I was at. Didn’t want to think about it. Just shoot the free throw. Shoot it. Hit it. Relax," said the St. Ambrose senior who did just that, recording the 1,000th point of her collegiate career as the Bees rolled to an 85-56 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference win over Holy Cross at Lee Lohman Arena.
The center from Rock Island entered the game needing five points to join teammates Candace Finnin and Hailey Cook in reaching milestone in the last three games.
Jackson knocked down the only two shots she attempted in the opening half to move to 999 career points, then reached the milestone as the Bees worked to add to a 46-24 halftime advantage.
Fouled on a drive to the basket, Jackson hit the first foul shot to extend the St. Ambrose lead to 51-30.
Coach Krista Van Hauen called a timeout to give Jackson, her teammates and fans a chance to celebrate the accomplishment. Jackson then calmly hit the second on her way to an eight-point performance.
"Big relief," said Jackson, who was presented the game ball after the Bees won their sixth straight game and their 12th in their last 13.
"To get to 1,000 points, it was something I didn’t do in high school. It means a lot. The pressure, it was real with all the family and friends here. I wanted to play well. I wanted to help our team win."
Jackson accomplished that as well as the hot-shooting Bees used a run of 17 unanswered points in the opening quarter to build a lead which reached 20-5 when Madi Epperson hit her second 3-point basket of the game with 3:52 left in the quarter.
"We’re working together to get the best shots we can," Epperson said. "We were getting some open looks, and just like we’re working on offense to make that happen, we’re playing good team defense to make it all work."
Van Hauen saw that as well as St. Ambrose followed knocking down 9-of-13 shots in the opening quarter by hitting 9-of-11 in the second, a 75-percent touch from the field in the first half that saw the Bees record 12 assists on 18 field goals.
That was complemented by a defense that limited the Saints (9-11, 6-4 CCAC) to 37-percent shooting and forced 10 turnovers.
"That was as close to a flawless first half as you could hope for," Van Hauen said. "It should give our players a real good idea of what we’re capable of. They’re in this together, and they’ve bought into that. The way we’re sharing the ball, the way we’re playing good team defense, it’s the way the game is supposed to work."
Epperson led a group of seven St. Ambrose players who scored at least eight points with a 15-point performance. Aubrie Carlisle contributed 12 points while Finnin and Cook added to their recent 1,000-point milestones by scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Bees (15-4, 8-2).
"Great balance. They’re as happy for each other as they are for themselves in reaching 1,000, and that’s been neat to see," Van Hauen said. "We have a lot of options on offense, and that is making us tougher to defend."
Madeline Prestegaard, a freshman transfer from the University of Vermont, made her St. Ambrose debut late in the game.
The 6-foot-2 post player from Amboy, Illinois, prepped at Ashton-Franklin Center and finished with four points in five minutes of action.