Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

Sacrifice is something that goes with the territory for any athlete.

So Peachtree Ridge forward Brittany Jack wasn't at all surprised when her coach, James Clanahan, asked her last summer to make some sacrifices for this season.

And the 6-foot senior has made a few in her offensive game to bolster her defense and her leadership skills.

"In the offseason, most of the stuff we worked on was conditioning," Jack said. "Some of the challenges that were made to me were being a leader on this team -- being more aggressive, being a leader defensively and taking charges."

The results have been solid so far for both Jack and the Lions as they head into tonight's Region 7-AAAAA game at Northview.

And the sacrifices she's made have not gone unnoticed.

"The two things I've asked of her the most this year are, one, I only kept two seniors, and I wanted her to be a great leader because I've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores that play," Clanahan said. "She's done a great job of that. She's subdivided the team (along with Erika Waters) and taken a few juniors and mixed in a few freshmen under her wing and talked to them about team goals, expectations and things we're doing in the program."

While Jack's scoring output is down a point to 13.2 points per game from last year's total -- placing her second on the team behind fellow senior Waters -- her team-best rebounding total has increased from last year to 8.0 per game.

She also leads Peachtree Ridge with 73.3 percent free-throw shooting and blocked shots, while placing second on the team in steals (1.3 per game) and tied for third in assists (1.2 per game), and has been a major factor in the Lions' 4-2 start in region play (8-6 overall).

However, Jack has been paying closer attention to detail in areas that don't always show up in the stat book.

Mostly, that has meant putting herself in good enough defensive position to draw offensive charging fouls against opponents driving to the basket, and thus changing the momentum of an opponents' possession.

And that has involved her making some painful physical sacrifices.

"You can't see anything right now, but when we first started doing drills (in practice) for taking charges, I had bruises everywhere and busted my lip a couple times," Jack said.

However, there is an upside for making such a sacrifice.

"(The players) are tracking them pretty hard because I (buy) them (McDonald's) Happy Meals when they draw charges," Clanahan said with a laugh. "There's a Happy Meal list on the board (in the locker room) because I told them (drawing charges) makes me happy, and I've fallen behind on that.

"I preach it all the time. It takes momentum from them, it's a turnover and it's a foul on the other player. That's big for our team if it's done. She's really stepped up with that this year."

By Jack's very unofficial -- at least, at this point -- count, she figures Clanahan owes her seven Happy Meals from the charges she's drawn, up from two she took all of last year.

It's a price she's willing to pay.

In addition to benefiting her team, such toughness may reap rewards down the line in the form of a college scholarship.

Though she has no firm offers yet, she has garnered interest from Alabama, East Tennessee State, Marshall and Samford.

And she has a specific figure in mind for the number of charges she wants to draw this season.

"I'm really trying to take at least two per game," Jack said. "That's a goal I recently set, but we'll see how that works out."

Based on her ability to make other sacrifices, Clanahan has no doubt she can reach that goal.

"It's doable," Clanahan said. "With the help defense we want to play, she can get it."