Earl, Valley wear crowns
Jake Earl became the first athlete in Franklin County history to rush for over 1,000 yards on the gridiron and score 1,000 career varsity points on the basketball court.
The Franklin County Technical School senior can also add Recorder-area scoring champion to his resume.
Earl averaged 23.8 points per game this season to win the boys’ race, joining Mahar Regional School’s Jill Valley the 2012-2013 girls’ scoring champ at 18.4.
Both players are senior sharpshooting guards, and although Earl will not take part in the postseason, Valley has helped lead the Lady Senators to the WMass Division II Tournament, where they will try to get back to the title game after finishing second last season. This is the second straight season Valley has led the area in scoring. She finished atop the charts last year with 17.7 average.
Earl is capable of scoring in a variety of ways, which helped him score 20-or-more points in 13 of 20 games this season to finish with 475 points. That included five performances of 30 or more points, one 40-point performance, and a 49-point outburst on Feb. 12 that set the single-game Franklin Tech mark and went down as the fifth-most points ever scored in a game in area history. He finished the season more than six points in front of last year’s area scoring lead Phil DiPhllipo, who netted 17.1 points per game for Mahar Regional School. Earl received high praise from coach Rick Recore following the final game of the season for his multiple-faceted approach.
“When you look at what Jake does and how he plays, his points come from hard work and effort,” Recore explained. “It’s not like he’s coming off screens and getting open looks. He’s attacking the basket and getting points at the free-throw line. Those are hard points that are all about taking punishment to your body.”
Athol High School’s Adrian Sexton finished second in the area race with 17.3 points per game, while Frontier Regional School’s Paul Decker was third at 16.1 points per game. Franklin Tech’s Chris Wetherby was fourth at 14.8 points per game and is the first underclassman (sophomore) among the leaders. Turners Falls High School’s Malcolm Smith (14.2 points) and Liam Ellis (13.7) were fifth and sixth, and Ellis, also a sophomore, should be in contention for the crown over the next two campaigns.
Valley has been one of the best players in area girls’ hoops for three years now. After scoring 13 points per game as a sophomore, she rose to 17.7 points per game last season to earn her first area scoring title. That number rose slightly this season, when she grabbed another crown by more than three points per game over her closest competitor. Valley netted 350 points in 19 games, reaching double figures in 18 games, the lone exception coming in a blowout win. While the Franklin County League may be down this season, Valley did much of her scoring against the elite. In both games against league champion Athol, Valley scored more than 20 points, while averaging 19.8 points in eight games against the FCL’s four tournament teams. Like Earl, Valley also registered her 1,000th career point this season.
Only five area players finished with a double-digit scoring average this season. Of the five, three are underclassman, with one junior, one sophomore and one freshman in the mix. Pioneer Valley Regional School sophomore Natalie Hale may have been the biggest surprise, finishing second in the area with 15.3 points. Another underclassman, Frontier Regional School junior Amanda Calvo, came in third with 14.3 points per game. Athol’s Alexa Whitney finished with 13.4, although the senior’s scoring may have been hampered by the Red Raiders blowing out many opponents, plus the fact that the Red Raiders had five players finish with a scoring average of 6.9 or higher, easily the most balanced offense of any area team. Turners Falls freshman Jenna Putala also showed that she should be a force for three more seasons, finishing fifth in area scoring with 10.8 points per game.
To see a team-by-team scoring breakdown turn to today’s Scoreboard page.