January 11, 2012

With Branker Assuming Leadership Role, Stuart Hoops Looking to Take More Risks

After spending the last two seasons as a member of the supporting cast for the Stuart Country Day basketball team, Parris Branker is ready to shoulder more responsibility this winter.

“It’s difficult but it’s fun; I like being a leader on the court,” said senior guard Branker.

“I have a lot of help from the other two seniors, Jen Dias and Angela Gallagher. They help out and encourage the team.”

Things proved to be a little difficult for Branker and her teammates as they battled Northern Burlington last Wednesday in their first action since late December.

The Tartans fell behind 11-4 after one quarter and trailed 22-13 at half. Stuart narrowed the gap to 22-18 early in the third quarter but never got closer than that as they lost 52-33.

“I think it was a little holiday rust,” said Branker. “In the first quarter, we were having trouble. In the second quarter, we started getting things together. We were getting more in the flow.”

Branker certainly got in the flow offensively, displaying some fine outside shooting as she scored a team-high 15 points.

“I had to have coach [Tony Bowman] encourage me to shoot a little more,” said Branker.

“I have not been that confident in my shooting. As soon as I started to get a few more shots in, I felt like I could make some more.”

Head coach Bowman is looking to pump up Branker’s confidence. “She is developing,” said Bowman. “We are trying to get her to do more; to think outside the box.”

Bowman acknowledges that his squad needs to think as one on the court. “We are developing individuals who have not been in lead positions before,” said Bowman.

“We are learning to play as a group; we are not as cohesive as we have been in the past.”

Stuart’s lack of cohesion has predictably led to some inconsistent play. “We have shown spurts of being a good team and then we are lax for two or three minutes,” said Bowman, whose team fell 45-26 to South Hunterdon last Thursday to drop to 0-5.

“We are not being consistent. If we become more consistent and confident as a team, we will do better.”

In Bowman’s view, his players need to ratchet up their work ethic to gain more confidence.

“We are not as aggressive as I would like, offensively and defensively,” said Bowman, who will be looking for more intensity as his team plays at Princeton Day School on January 11 before hosting the Solebury School on January 17.

“I believe that preparation and working hard gets you that win. I said today, are you working hard in practice because if you are, these are the kind of games you win. If you are not, this is a kind of game you can lose.”

Branker, for her part, believes the Tartans can raise the level of their game.

“We need to be more confident in ourselves and to take even more risks,” said Banker.

“Today was one of the first times I felt like we could take more risks and shoot more. That’s how we were able to make it closer. We need to not be so stressed out and just play the game.”