HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Thomas' scoring spree leads Buchholz to a district title
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 9:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 9:42 p.m.
Following her nomination for the McDonald's All-American Game last week, Jessica Thomas gave the final selection committee two performances to think about in the District 1-7A tournament at Tallahassee Lincoln.
A Miami commitment, Thomas dropped a season-high 50 points Thursday against Tallahassee Chiles to lead the top-seeded Bobcats to a 94-8 win in the district semifinals. A day later, she scored 31 points and had six assists in Buchholz's 80-46 championship win over Ocala Forest.
As one of 340 McDonald's All-American girls nominees, Thomas is vying for a spot on the final roster of 24 players, which will be announced during the event's Feb. 14 selection show at 5 p.m on ESPNU.
“She was excited about it, but didn't know if she would qualify,“ Bobcats coach Rebecca Williams said. “She's probably at 2,000 (career points). Right now, I think the last I counted for the season, she's like at 675 for just this season.”
This season the 5-foot-7 guard has averaged more than 30 points per game for Buchholz. Known for her shooting ability, Thomas hit 11 of 13 shots from behind the 3-point line during her 50-point performance against Chiles.
After cruising through the district tournament, the Bobcats — ranked No. 1 in Class 7A by MaxPreps — and Thomas turn their attention to the state playoffs, where they look to repeat their state semifinal run of last season.
“I'm the coach on sidelines, and she's the coach out on the court with the girls” Williams said. “I'm just looking for her to continue what she's been doing all season.”
Buchholz (23-4) will host District 2-7A runner-up Jacksonville Ed White (20-7) in the regional quarterfinals Thursday at 7 p.m.
JIMMIE TAYLOR III, SUWANNEE: The senior shooting guard posted triple-doubles in both of the Bulldogs' home wins last week. On Friday against Taylor County, Taylor III had 17 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists to lead Suwannee to a 74-31 victory. A day later, he scored 29 points, hauled in 15 rebounds and dished out 11 assists in a 77-64 win against Santa Fe.
JOSEPH MALU, EASTSIDE: Just a sophomore, Malu scored four goals and dished out one assist in two Class 3A playoff wins last week for the Rams. On Wednesday, Malu netted a hat trick to spark Eastside to a 4-1 victory against Leesburg and then scored the official game-winner Saturday in a 2-0 win at Citrus to lead the Rams to the regional finals for the second year in a row.
DEONTRAE NEAL, BUCHHOLZ: The senior heavyweight became Buchholz's first individual district title in the last 15 years when he beat a Fleming Island wrestler 4-2 in the finals of Sunday's District 1-3A tournament at Jacksonville Mandarin.
JAZLYND ROLLINS, BUCHHOLZ: A junior guard, Rollins scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds Thursday in the Bobcats' 94-8 district semifinal win against Tallahassee Chiles. Two days later in a 80-46 championship game victory against Ocala Forest, she notched 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists.
RAYMOND GARDNER, SUWANNEE: Gardner, a senior guard, found his shooting stroke last week for the Bulldogs with 11 threes in two wins. He hit 6 shots behind the 3-point line and scored a team-high 24 points last Friday against Taylor County. Gardner followed that display with 17 points on 5 threes Saturday against Santa Fe.
CODY PETERSON, EASTSIDE: A junior goalkeeper, Peterson allowed just one goal and made a combined 9 saves in the Rams' two Class 3A playoff wins last week. After earning a 4-1 win Wednesday against Leesburg in the regional quarterfinals, Peterson helped shut out Citrus in a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
JOE LEVINE, BUCHHOLZ: A junior 113-pounder, Levine was one of 9 Bobcats to qualify for regionals when he pinned a Fleming Island wrestler in the semifinals of the District 1-3A tournament.
JON GARDNER, GAINESVILLE: In the District 4-2A tournament on Saturday, Gardner avenged a loss to Eastside's Rashaad Bennett from the city championships by pinning his rival to claim the 120-pound weight class.
Athletes of the week are determined by nominations from area coaches. Coaches are asked to call in every Sunday between 4-7 p.m.
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