Montgomery's Preston Thomas (right) tries to launch a shot.
SOUTH COUNTY After Montgomery High was eliminated in the first round of the San Diego Section playoffs last winter, then-juniors Preston Thomas and Jestin Jameson made a pact that nothing short of a section championship would do for 2012-13.
The goal was especially important for Thomas who was on the varsity as a sophomore when the Aztecs went 5-21, winning just one game in Metro South Bay action.
Jameson, who transferred to Montgomery for his sophomore year and did not play, was one of the big differences when the Aztecs improved to 18-11 last season. Big, as in 6-foot-4, 200 pounds big.
He would become Mr. Inside.
At 6-foot with a deadly three-point shot, Thomas leads the team in assists, steals and, of course, those game-changing 3-pointers.
He would become Mr. Outside.
The co-captains have worked their magic for the Aztecs who started the week with an 18-3 record and a second place position heading into the second round of league play. Montgomery was riding a 7-game winning streak
Of the three losses, two have been by just three points and the other a setback to section-ranked San Ysidro by 16 when the team’s third leading scorer, Charles Williams, was sitting on the bench after suffering a concussion.
“Just Jestin’s inside presence was important,” said the soft-spoken Thomas of the Aztecs’ turnaround. “He has good hands and with him there, we can look for bigger options. When he’s on the inside, it spreads the floor more and opens up the outside.”
Jameson agrees but says it works both ways.
“When they double-team me, I’ll kick the ball off to him for three-pointers,” said Jameson, who had a season-high 22 rebounds against Mar Vista last week. “Then you have to pick your poison. I think we’re both more mature this year.”
That’s because after the pact they made a year ago, both players worked hard in the offseason, improving all aspects of their game. They focused solely on basketball.
“The two are incredibly unselfish,” said coach Edward Martin. “Those two are our hardest workers, setting a great example for the others. “I think Preston missed one offseason workout for a family situation.
“They really do give us options. When we get the ball inside to Jestin, he gets so much attention because he’s multiskilled — he could play the wing (guard) for us. He has really refined the post position for us.
“And Preston, we call him the Silent Assassin because he’s so quiet. But he can hit the threes consistently.”
How close are the two? Jameson leads the team with a 17.2 scoring average, tossing in a double-double average with 11.9 rebounds a game. Right behind is Thomas at 16.9 points a game, bolstered by 52 baskets from long range.
A recent scoring spree by Williams (11.9 scoring average) gives the Aztecs even more balance.
While the Aztec duo is hoping for a rematch against Olympian, the team that ousted them from the playoffs a year ago, they know going in they won’t have to worry about San Ysidro, a Division I team. They also know that Cathedral Catholic and St. Augustine, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the section recently, will be waiting.
“I think we’ve learned from our losses,” Jameson said, “and we’ll be ready no matter who we face. We all know our roles and know we could easily be 19-1.”
Chimed in Thomas, “our goal is a CIF banner and we’ve worked hard for that. We know the feeling of losing and we’ve just worked harder. We don’t look ahead but the ultimate goal is the (championship) banner.”