Hakel caps week with milestone

Jessica Hakel

STEPHENS CITY — Jess Hakel can finally catch her breath.

The Sherando senior guard scored her 1,000th career point on Tuesday night, capping a very solid week, and a milestone that she has wanted for a long time.

“I’m glad it’s out of the way, so I can stop thinking about it,” Hakel said.

Hakel is The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Jan. 11-17 for her achievement and for her stellar play last week.

Hakel reached 1,000 points on the second of two free throws with 2:26 left in the game against Northwestern District rival Millbrook. She said her teammates made sure she knew that she was two points away, and she knew she had to make them.

“I just took a deep breath and was just like, ‘Just make these,'” Hakel said. “I knew I could because free throws are my strong point, and I’ve been consistent all year. I just tried to relax and not think about it, and they went through.”

Hakel was then mobbed by her teammates to celebrate, and she said it was a very special moment.

“I love my teammates,” Hakel said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team. When they all came around me and hugged, I started crying. I’m just thankful for the moment.”

Sherando coach Mike Marsh said that knowing that the milestone would be coming, Hakel was pressing a little too much earlier in the season. Marsh said he talked with her about letting the game come to her, and the results have paid off for the Warriors and Hakel. Marsh said she is averaging around 17 points per game over the last seven or eight games.

“We knew this landmark was coming, and I think she wanted it so bad she was trying to make it happen,” Marsh said. “All of a sudden she stopped trying to make it happen, and it’s happened instead because she’s not worried about it so much. … She’s finding opportunities to score. Plus because of that, it’s not just scoring that’s important, it’s the other parts of the game that she’s good at that she’s refocused on. She’s rebounding much more. She’s stealing at a higher rate, she’s getting assists at a higher rate.”

A big strength of Hakel’s is that she’s an all-around player. She does a lot more than score points for the Warriors. Hakel is in the top five in every category in the area statistics.

She is averaging 13.0 points (third) 6.3 rebounds (fourth), 3.8 assists (first) and 2.8 steals (fifth). She also leads the area in 3-point percentage (48.4) and free-throw percentage (75.6) and Hakel is third in field-goal percentage (47.3).

Hakel hasn’t always been so strong from beyond the arc. She said it was something she wanted to work on in the offseason, and it’s shown this year.

“At the end of the season last year, coach Marsh and I sat down and talked about what I needed to improve on. That was one of the things I needed to work on — my long-range jumpers. He has helped me do that,” Hakel said. “I’ve stayed after practice sometimes and worked on shooting with the shooting gun. It’s just helped. I’ve been working hard on it. Everything pays off with hard work. That’s all it takes is hard work and it gets you anywhere.”

Hakel has been a four-year starter, and said that the biggest thing she’s improved on has just been getting more confident in herself and her game.

In her freshman season, she also played soccer, but decided to focus on basketball the last two years. Hakel has also been working with Frisby’s Agility, Speed and Strength Training in Winchester, run by James Frisby.

“They have helped me with my speed and agility, my footwork, my endurance,” Hakel said. “That has really helped me these past few years, working out with those trainers and helping me get to where I need to be.”

Even though Hakel is glad that she achieved the milestone, she said she knows the Warriors have a lot of games to play and she wants to do what she can for her team.

“It’s time to move on. We still have six or seven games to play,” Hakel said. “We’ve got to finish strong and keep playing as a team. And do whatever it takes to win the games.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com