February 14, 2018

Spaulding Displays All-Around Game As Stuart Hoops Makes Prep B Final

PLAN B: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Jalynn Spaulding heads upcourt last Sunday as second-seeded Stuart hosted third-seeded Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals. Senior guard Spaulding contributed 13 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to help Stuart pull away to a 67-29 victory. The Tartans, now 15-7, will host fourth-seeded Academy of St. Elizabeth in the Prep B title game on February 14. In addition, Stuart will also be starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded seventh and will host 10th-seeded Princeton High in an opening round contest on February 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jalynn Spaulding went scoreless in the first quarter as the Stuart Country Day School basketball team hosted Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals last Sunday, but she played a key role as the Tartans built a 15-8 lead.

While Spaulding’s shot was off, she displayed an all-court game, crashing the boards and setting up teammates with some deft passing.

“I have really good teammates so when that happens, they pick up the slack up for me,” said Spaulding. “When I am not scoring, I try to rebound and feed them. I really love to get my teammates involved.”

As the game unfolded, Spaulding got involved in the scoring, ending up with 13 points as the second-seeded Tartans pulled away to a 67-29 victory over third-seeded Newark and will now host fourth-seeded Academy of St. Elizabeth in the Prep B title game on February 14.

“Throughout the game, coach [Justin Leith] gave us the mindset that is 0-0 every quarter so the score didn’t matter,” said Spaulding, who also contributed 10 rebounds and seven assists in the win. “It was go out and play hard.”

For Spaulding, making it to the Prep B title game in her final campaign with Stuart is special.

“I think it is pretty big,” said Spaulding. “It is a good accomplishment for the school and for us as a team. I am just happy that we are getting there.”

The team’s chemistry has played a big role in its success. “I just feel that we bond really well together and we really mesh well,” said Spaulding. “I feel like when one of us is off, the other ones pick up the slack.”

With Stuart bringing a 15-7 record into the title game, Spaulding believes the Tartans are getting better and better.

“As every game goes on, we are playing more as a team so it is working out for us,” said Spaulding.

Stuart head coach Justin Leith liked the team defense displayed by the Tartans in the win over Newark.

“The whole emphasis was defense, defense, defense; it is a cliche at this point, but that is what it is all about,” said Leith. “It is focusing on defense; if we start making baskets early that is fine.”

Stuart’s stifling pressure broke down the Minutemen in the second quarter as the Tartans outscored them 20-7 on the way to building a 35-15 halftime lead.

“Our press starts to wear on teams; they can break it one or two times, but we match up and figure out what they are trying to do to beat us,” said Leith.

At the offensive end, Stuart showed superb balance as freshman Nia Melvin scored a game-high 21 points with junior star Bey-Shana Clark chipping in 16 and sophomore guard Jasmine Hansford adding nine in addition to the 13 contributed by Spaulding.

“This team shares the basketball extremely well; there is not a selfish person on the team,” said Leith. “It is so fun to coach. Some teams that you coach, you have to address something like that, but they love each other and love playing with each other. It is great.”

While it is great for the Tartans to make the Prep B final, Leith wants his team to close the deal.

“It was one of our goals but it is not to just get there but to win it,” said Leith. “We are one step away from doing that and hopefully we will.”

Spaulding has stepped up her game as a senior. “Jalynn is fantastic; she is a great kid,” said Leith. “She is a different player this year by the way she rebounds. Last year she wouldn’t really get in there. Her go-to now when she is frustrated is to rebound, which is the best thing that you can ask from someone. She rebounds, she is moving the ball, she is scoring. She has always done that so it is great to have.”

Hansford has been giving Stuart another good scoring option in the backcourt. “Jasmine has been shooting the ball so much better,” said Leith.

“She has been pretty consistent. In our last 10 games, she has been close to 10 points or above every game.”

In Leith’s view, his squad has been raising the level of its game down the stretch.

“The goal is to peak around now; they showed today that they are getting there,” said Leith. “We certainly need to work on boxing out. There are small things that we need to tweak so we are not playing our best yet but we are drawing close.”

Leith believes his team is poised to peak in the title game. “I think it is refreshing to play someone you haven’t played a couple of times, to not know anything about them and just go in there,” said Leith, whose squad will also be competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded seventh and will host 10th-seeded Princeton High in an opening round contest on February 15. “It is really good for the girls, they don’t know what to expect so it is just basketball.”

Spaulding, for her part, is looking for the Tartans to keep playing good basketball.

“We are going to have to play as a team and do the same thing that we did today,” said Spaulding.

“We have to go in with the mindset that it doesn’t matter what the score is, we have to work hard the whole game.”