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Calhoun co-captains Jackson, Alonzo look to conquer Roma

By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.

Calhoun's Ryan Jackson dribbles past Cris Casas during a game versus San Antonio Kennedy at A.C. Jones High School in Beeville. Calhoun won 70-64.

Kevin Andrade and Isaac Cardona will probably get their points.

However, the key to Tuesday's Class 4A regional quarterfinal contest between Roma and Calhoun will likely be the secondary scorers for both teams.

For the Sandcrabs, that role is played by Jason Alonzo and Ryan Jackson, a pair of junior guards who have played together since their days at Travis Middle School.

Alonzo is the point guard who facilitates everything, while his classmate is the silky shooter who opens up lanes for Cardona and others. Alonzo has averaged 13 points per game in the playoffs, and Jackson, who is averaging 11.5 points in the playoffs, have knocked down a combined six 3-pointers in wins over San Antonio Kennedy and Corpus Christi Ray.

"We have Isaac, one of the best scorers in South Texas, I think," Alonzo said. "Ryan has one of the best shots I've seen. I try to get them the ball as much as I can. I try to be a leader on and off the court. Whenever coach wants me to score, I try to get some points."

Cardona scored a season-high 36 points in Friday's area round win over Ray and is averaging 31 points per game in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-9-inch Andrade is averaging 31.5 points in Roma's two playoff wins.

"Coach (Aaron Anderson) told us at the beginning of the year that Isaac can't take us all the way to state," Jackson said. "We are going to have to help him. Jason (Alonzo) and I sat down and took it upon ourselves to help him out. This is his last year before he goes off to college. He deserves it, so we all sat down, and we decided we are going to help him. This is going to be our year."

Calhoun (24-10) returned just four players from the 2012 team that was bounced in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Since Jackson and Alonzo were two of them, Anderson appointed them captains for this season.

"They have been a part of it, and they know what it takes to win," said Anderson, who is in his first season as Calhoun's varsity head coach. "Besides their talents, they have to be the ones beside Isaac to carry the load."

In separate conversations, the two guards said the game has slowed down for them in the past year. They are more judicious with the basketball offensively rather than whizzing around in search of the next shot.

"They have a better sense of the game," said Calhoun assistant coach Robbie Vega. "Obviously, when they were younger, they tried to score all the time individually. Now, they have a better concept for the game, and they are better players."

Vega coached Alonzo and Jackson in their middle school days. He said the two juniors are engaged in basketball throughout the year, and that dedication has lifted the Calhoun basketball program to the heights it has achieved the last two years.

Besides, someone has to get the ball to Cardona.

In the past, teams knew they could stop the Sandcrabs if they stopped Cardona. This year, Cardona is still the offensive focal point, but there are other boulevards to buckets.

"Ryan and I and other people that came back from last year, we just realized that pretty much was the case," Alonzo said about the reliance on Cardona. "We knew we had to step it up, work hard in the offseason and work hard leading up to the postseason so we can take on a larger role and take the weight off of Isaac."

On his best day, Alonzo is 5-foot-7-inches and 135 pounds. But his quickness, ball-handling and decision making compensate for his stature. This year, he's also added a floater to his shooting arsenal.

Alonzo's father, Jojo, taught him the floater when he was playing YMCA basketball in second and third grade. He kept it under wraps the last two years but credits Anderson for giving him the freedom to take - and make - the shot.

The two guards are in such sync that when asked what it will take to eliminate Roma (24-10) and advance to the regional tournament their answers - minimize turnovers, respect the undersized Gladiators - mirrored each other. Individually, the two added they will have to play defense, "not let the crowds get to us" and play smart basketball.

Nevertheless, Calhoun's captains not named Cardona are confident they can conquer the task ahead of them Tuesday.

"We were the leaders back then, and we fit into that role here," Alonzo said. "When coach asked us to be leaders, we already knew how it feels. We just have that chemistry. I know what Ryan can do, and he knows what I can do."

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