Jenks proves viable resource for Senators by season end

  • Mahar's Matthew Jenks (23) goes up for a rebound against Frontier's Carsten Carey (22) in the second quarter, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield. File photo

  • Matt Jenks, left, of Mahar, defends Frontier’s Kalen Evans in the third quarter of their Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament first-round game, Tuesday at Goodnow Gymnasium in South Deerfield. Jenks was a viable resource for the Senators this season. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Sports Writer
Thursday, March 01, 2018

ORANGE — Mahar’s Matt Jenks came to the varsity basketball team his senior season very raw in terms of potential and ability. He’s tall with great athletic ability and prowess. He plays with a lot of speed and energy despite his size, and at times, has struggled with harnessing that speed. He entered the season playing a tick too fast, drawing fouls and missing free throws because of that speed and aggressiveness.

During Tuesday’s playoff game against the Frontier Regional Red Hawks, Jenks looked as if he finally harnessed his play-making ability, contributing a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds, as well as a quality that a box score cannot quantify, a mantra of doing anything it took to keep his team in the game.

“Matt Jenks was such a competitor (against Frontier),” said Mahar coach Chad Softic. “I hope the young kids watching saw his will.”

Jenks did everything he could to keep the Senators in contention to upset the Red Hawks. With three minutes and 50 seconds left in the game, he dove at a loose ball and came up with it over two Red Hawks going for it as well. The save allowed the Senators to extend their offensive drive, which eventually led to Deven Patch connecting on a mid-range jumper.

With one minute and 23 seconds left, Jenks went full speed toward a loose ball in the offensive end. Both he and Frontier’s Noah Graves went after the ball, but Jenks played it nicely, gathering in the ball just a step ahead of Graves, which caused him to make contact with Jenks, giving Jenks two shots from the free throw line. He made both shots to bring the game to within four at 41-37. Jenks also picked up key defensive rebounds throughout the game, but especially in the fourth quarter, that stopped the Red Hawks from netting a shot from the field within the final two minutes and 49 seconds of the game.

He also controlled the team’s offense to begin the game, keeping pace with the Red Hawks for the first five minutes of the game, contributing all eight points for the Senators as the team held the 8-7 advantage with three minutes and 31 seconds left in the first quarter.

“It feels great. It’s bittersweet, definitely,” said Jenks about his efforts to end the season. “All of us guys wanted more, but we’ve got to be proud of what we did and the work we put in. I’m happy with what where we got.”

Jenks finished the season with 153 points and finished the season off strong offensively. Along with his 12 points against Frontier, Jenks netted seven points against an elite Hopkins Academy team and 14 points against Division II Belchertown High School. He honed his free throw shot as well. After missing several free throws to begin the season, he netted at least one free throw in each of his last four games. He netted four against Frontier, one against Hopkins and Athol High School, and two against Pioneer Valley.

“I had a lot of confidence in him,” said Jenks’ teammate Brennan Mailloux following the Tuesday’s contest.

Jenks came to the team his senior season after fellow seniors and friends urged him to play. Jenks played recreational basketball growing up, but never tried out for the high school team.

The recruitment of Jenks gave the Senators a key piece on a team that struggled to find offensive rhythm at times throughout the season, progressing nicely as the season went on. As a kid that shows the ability to take over games at times, the Senators are probably wishing Jenks had another three years to play.

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