Franklin Tech girls hoop preview: Eagles young and hungry

  • Franklin Tech's Jocelyn Crowningshield is a top returning player for the Eagles this winter. FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech's Desiree Doane is one of several players who will be counted on to step up on the hardwood this winter as the Eagles open their season today. FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech's Isabelle Duga is someone to watch for the young Eagles this winter, as they open today against Hopkins Academy in the Eaglers Holiday Classic. FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2018 9:48:56 PM

Experience is very important for a basketball team.

While many area programs feature athletes who have played together on the court since a young age, such is not the case at Franklin County Technical School, where players from districts throughout the county come together and are forced to jell quickly.

“One of the challenges is that we get girls from different towns, different districts, who are coming to play together for the first time,” Franklin Tech girls basketball coach Sean Knightly said. “We have to spend some extra time developing team chemistry.”

That can be especially hard on a team that lacks many upperclassmen, which was the case for the Eagles a year ago when Amber Merritt was the lone senior. That, however, did not stop Franklin Tech from enjoying a strong season, as the team went 14-6 and qualified for the tournament. The season came to an end in the first round of the WMass Division 4 Tournament with a 58-27 loss to Renaissance, but Knightly said his team did gain a lot of experience from playing in that game.

“We were down big at halftime but the girls never quit,” he said.

Franklin Tech opens its 2018-19 season today at 3:30 p.m. when it hosts Hopkins Academy in the Eagles Holiday Classic.

While the team may be a year older in most places, it is still relatively young as the Eagles don’t have any seniors on the squad entering this season. Besides Merritt, Franklin Tech also lost the person who would have been the lone senior this year in Brooke Adams, who was injured during soccer season and is unable to play. Merritt was the second leading scorer on the team with 8.5 points per game last season, while Adams was third at 6.9 ppg.

The loss of those two athletes will certainly be felt but the Eagles have a lot of players back and should continue the growth they started last winter.

“I like that we have a young group because it gives us extra time to come together as a team,” Knightly explained.

Junior forward Jordan Hurlbert led the team in scoring at 8.8 ppg last winter and returns to the starting lineup this year. Classmate Jocelyn Crowningshield is another player to watch and someone who could make a big leap. The guard averaged 6.8 ppg last winter, but after scoring more than seven points in a game only once during the first 15 games of the season, she scored eight points or more in each of the final six games of the year, including a season-high 20 points in a 38-33 win over Duggan Academy.

After those two returnees, the Eagles do not have another player back who averaged more than 3 points per game, so some players will have to step up. Junior guard Isabelle Duga is one player to keep an eye on, as is sophomore guard Gabby Castagna. Junior forward Hailey Jackson and sophomore guard Desiree Doane are both back and could see their scoring increase.

The Eagles also have three first-year players on varsity in sophomore forward Gem Cruz and freshmen Rebecca Kucinski (guard) and Emily Ryan (forward).

One more positive this season for the team comes in the form of the junior varsity program, which again has enough players to exist, something that should also help the program grow in the coming years.

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