A grand night for Senators’ Valley
ORANGE — Every basketball player needs a little reminder at times to attack the basket — even 1,000-point scorers.
Mahar Regional School coach Larry Fisher gave that very advice to senior point guard Jill Valley on Friday night and she put it to good use, scoring on two layups in a two-minute span during the first quarter to become the 11th player in school history to hit the career milestone during the Senators’ 49-16 Franklin County League victory over Smith Academy before a packed house at the Grzesik-Bixby Gymnasium Complex.
Valley entered the game with 997 points in her four-year varsity career and immediately those in attendance could see that it wasn’t going to happen quickly, because Valley — as is usually the case — was busy setting up her teammates for baskets. The Senators’ first two possessions of the game saw Valley dish off passes to open teammates for them to shoot. Mahar’s first points of the night came shortly thereafter when Valley threw an inlet pass to center Cassie Verheyen, who put up a short shot that went in as she got fouled.
“I’ve always been just as comfortable passing as I am shooting,” a modest Valley said afterward.
Valley finally put up her first shot of the game around the midpoint of the first quarter when she let a mid-range jump shot fly that narrowly missed going in.
“I was a little nervous,” she admitted of the slow start.
That’s when Fisher made a move, hollering to fellow guard Ally Parker to play the point following Smith’s first basket of the night, and then summoning Valley over to the sideline as Parker carried the ball up the court. Fisher muttered something quickly to Valley, who then raced up the floor, took a pass from Parker and dribbled along the baseline before laying the ball in for her first bucket of the night with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
“He told me to keep moving and attack the basket,” Valley recalled of the advice.
She again put the advice to use later in the quarter when she showed off all the things that have helped make her one of the most dangerous players in the FCL for the past two seasons while reaching the 1,000-point mark.
Valley started the sequence on defense where she ripped the ball out of the hands of Falcons guard Olivia Cavanaugh. She immediately dribbled up court, beat the last Smith defender off the dribble, and made a strong move to the hoop where she laid the ball in to give her 1,001 points for her career with 1:32 left in the first quarter to make the score 17-2. Valley was immediately mobbed by her teammates and the game was stopped briefly for a short ceremony with family and teammates.
“I have so much support from all of my teammates,” Valley said. “It’s been a really fun four years.”
Fisher said that it’s easy for her teammates to support her because of her unselfishness.
“For all four years she’s always been about team,” the coach began. “She’s a good teammate. She makes more passes than she shoots and sometimes I have to push her to take over a game. And she responds to that well. She’s a very nice kid and a very coachable player.”
Valley actually finished with a season-low 9 points on the night, not because of poor shooting, but because the Senators held a 37-4 lead at halftime. She also finished with seven steals and is now averaging 17.9 points per game this season for the Senators, who improved to 7-2 overall and remain a half-game behind Athol High School in the FCL North Division.
Jenelle Juskiewicz finished with 12 points in the win, while Natasha Patria netted 8 points. Verheyen blocked seven shots and Caitriona Cronin chipped in six steals to lead the defense.
Cavanaugh led the Falcons (2-7, 1-6) with 5 points.