DECATUR — When MacArthur point guard Taya Davis and center Quincenia Jackson first took the court together there was an instant connection.
Three years later, the duo are now junior captains for the Generals and their connection has grown even stronger.
This season, the duo will try to lead MacArthur to its best season in school history, but it all started in eighth grade at an all-star game that they both played in.
“That's when we connected — it has been so easy playing with her,” Davis said. “It’s so easy now. That’s how I get all my assists. Every time I go up, (the other team) steps up on me and I throw it right to Q."
Jackson said the feeling is mutual.
"It’s like we know each other’s next moves and I know where she will be at,” Jackson said.
Davis takes over the Generals’ full-time ball handling duties this season following the graduation of 1,000-point-plus scorer Jayda Dees. Davis has the ability to find Jackson in just the right spot.
“I know how to get her the ball. I know when she wants the ball and how she wants it. I know exactly the angles that she likes,” Davis said. “I set the table and I’m making sure everybody gets to eat and get their points in. I like to pass, I don’t really like to ball hog."
After a successful Generals' season last year that saw a 14-game winning streak and a regional title, the team is eager for more after getting a taste of playoff success. The loss to Bethalto Civic Memorial in the Class 3A sectional semifinals has the team dreaming of taking the next step.
"I just talked to the Civic Memorial coach (Jonathan Denney) and we hope we don’t have to meet each other again before we meet at state,” MacArthur coach Mike Williams said. “We have state goals. Anything less than state is not going to be OK with us.
“When we lost that game we talked about getting to state and that’s why I push them in the weight room and running on the track.”
Davis and Jackson called the gym home this summer — Davis working on her perimeter shooting and Jackson on her post moves.
“Taya’s been in the gym to shoot a 1,000 3s a week to improve her outside shot and so now she maybe our best outside shooter,” Williams said. “Everybody knows Q can score with her back to the basket but can she do it facing the basket?
“She has gotten a lot quicker and she’s more nimble so I think that is going to help her game, too, when those bigger girls try to guard her. I think that is going to be a problem for them.”
Jackson averaged a double-double last season (16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds) and shot 64 percent. Williams sees Davis joining the double-double club this season after averaging 7.8 points and 4.1 assists per game last year.
“If (Taya’s) not close to a double-double this year I will be shocked,” Williams said. “She’s going to do a better job shooting free throws, lay-ups and also 3s. All those teams that stayed off of her last season, that won’t happen this year.”
Jackson, the reigning Macon County Girls Basketball Player of the Year, took some lessons to heart following the loss at sectionals.
“I think that we learned that every play matters, both defense or offense. Every person matters on the court,” she said. “Yes, I think state is realistic. Our expectations are very high this year. I think we can get there with the new players and the people from last year that are coming back. Everybody is getting better in the gym.”
“It’s not going to be given to me, I’ve got to go work for it.”
The Generals added two players who started for Eisenhower last season in senior Jurnee Flournoy and sophomore Ariana Riley. Flournoy averaged 9.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists with the Panthers.
“I think this is the deepest roster that we have had since I’ve been here. Getting Jurnee and Ariana over is definitely going to help us but our freshmen who are now sophomores have improved big time,” said Williams, who was the 2018 and 2019 H&R Macon County Girls Coach of the Year.
Flournoy is happy to be playing alongside Davis and Jackson rather than going up against them.
“It was pretty tough to defend them. They are pretty unstoppable once they are on the court together,” Flournoy said. “(As an opponent), you can know what they are going to do and there isn’t a way to stop it.”
The Generals’ season starts off with a difficult Rock Island-Milan Booster Club Thanksgiving Classic and then a one-two punch of Springfield and Sacred Heart-Griffin on Dec. 3 and 5. They are the two Central State 8 teams that the Generals haven’t defeated since Williams became coach in 2018.
“I’m a big 0-for against those Springfield teams. Both of them lost a bunch of kids last season but they have great coaches,” Williams said. “When you have a great program, it is next woman up and so I expect them to be pretty good but we can get over that hump and beat them.”
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten
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