With Senior Star Clark Setting the Tone, Stuart Hoops Rolls into its Tourney Final
IN FORM: Stuart Country Day School basketball Bey-Shana Clark puts up a jump shot last week in Stuart’s holiday tourney. Senior star Clark contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds to help Stuart defeat Winslow 41-25 last Thursday in the semifinals of its fifth annual invitational tournament. The Tartans improved to 8-2 with the victory and were slated to face Trenton Catholic in the championship game on December 29. In upcoming action, Stuart will be heading to Florida to play Oxbridge Academy on January 2, Miami Country Day School on January 3, and St. Andrew’s on January 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Bey-Shana Clark didn’t waste any time setting the tone as the Stuart Country Day School basketball team hosted Winslow last Thursday in the semifinals of its fifth annual invitational tournament.
The senior forward scored the first two buckets of the contest, helping Stuart jump out to an early 9-0 lead.
“Today we had to really bring it,” said Clark. “They are an aggressive team, they were active. I had to just focus and be zoned in.”
The Tartans displayed their defensive focus in the latter stages of the second quarter, going on a 12-0 run to stretch their advantage to 23-9 by halftime.
“We just had to be connected on defense,” said Clark. “We had to be ready to help and know where everyone is.”
Excelling at both ends of the floor, Stuart pulled away to a 41-25 win over Winslow as it improved to 8-2 and was slated to face Trenton Catholic in the championship game on December 29.
“It was being smart with the ball and talking,” said Clark, who ended up with 14 points and 14 rebounds in the win over Winslow.
“We were coming together. We had to play as a team and that is what we did. We had to keep the intensity and energy up too.”
As a senior captain, Clark is looking to help the team be more together on the floor.
“I am playing more team ball,” added Clark. “I am looking to attack and pass off to other people.”
The addition of 6’3 sophomore transfer Laila Fair has given Clark a good target for her passes.
“It has helped a lot,” said Clark. “We have a lot of inside help now that we didn’t have. We can do high-low. We have rebounders.”
Stuart head coach Justin Leith liked his team’s high intensity defensive approach as it broke the game open in the second quarter.
“When we press at some point, there is always a tipping point,” said Leith.
“So we stay on them, we stay on them and all of sudden there is a tipping point. Sometimes it happens right away and sometimes it doesn’t happen until the second half. Tonight it happened to be in the second quarter.”
Leith credits Clark with making things happen for the Tartans. “She is our leader, she is the heart and soul of our team,” said Leith of Clark.
“However she is doing that day, the team is going to do. She knows that and she has been constant all season which has been great.”
Stuart got some great play from sophomore guard Nia Melvin against Winslow as she tallied a game-high 16 points.
“Nia can hit it from the outside, she can take it to the basket,” said Leith. “She can finish with contact. Defensively, she is great as well.”
Freshman Caroline Johnson brought some defensive intensity as she gave the Tartans some scrappy minutes down the stretch.
“Caroline Johnson only came in during the fourth quarter and she was awesome, I loved it,” said Leith.
“We don’t care what the score is or what team we are playing. If I put her in the first quarter, it would have been the same effort. Some of the other kids took breaks mentally but she never took a break.”
With Stuart striving for titles this winter, Leith knows his players can’t afford to take breaks.
“We have goals; we want to win Prep B again and we want to win Mercer County,” maintained Leith, whose team will be heading will be heading to Florida to play Oxbridge Academy on January 2, Miami Country Day School on January 3, and St. Andrew’s on January 5.
“Those are the two goals. If we fall short and the effort is there, we are OK with it. If we fall short but we lack the effort, then we are going to be disappointed. To this point, I have seen the effort.”
In Clark’s view, the Tartans have the right chemistry to achieve those goals.
“We just keep growing as a team, working together,” said Clark.
“We are not selfish, we can share the ball. We pick each other up when there is something down happening.”