With James Emerging as a Standout, Stuart Hoops Rolls into Prep B Semis
A-GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Aleah James dribbles the ball in a game last winter. Last Monday, sophomore guard James chipped in 11 points as second-seeded and defending champion Stuart defeated seventh-seeded Princeton Day School 83-31 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Tartans, now 13-9, are slated to host a Prep B semifinal contest on February 10 with the victor advancing to the title game on February 13. Stuart will also be starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
There was a lot of emotion in the gym as second-seeded and defending champion Stuart Country Day School hosted seventh-seeded Princeton Day School in the state Prep B quarterfinals last Monday.
“We are excited to get into our prep tournament,” said Stuart sophomore guard Aleah James. “We were also excited because it was Bey-Shana Clark’s senior game. We were hyped for that.”
That excitement translated into a blazing start for the Tartans as they jumped out to a 25-3 first quarter lead over PDS.
“Our coach [Justin Leith] makes sure that we come out with energy,” said James, reflecting on Stuart’s early surge.
Not looking back, Stuart rolled to an 83-31 win, doing senior star Clark proud on her “Bey Day,” as the gym was decorated with posters honoring the senior forward.
“She is a huge influence,” said James of Clark, who scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds as the Tartans improved to 13-9.
“She is a great captain and she is also a great friend. She has been like a big sister to most of us.”
James had a big game as well, scoring 11 points with four rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
“I feel like I could have finished better around the rim,” said James. “I was struggling with that in the first half a bit, but other than that it was pretty good.”
Working hard over the offseason to hone her skills and mental approach, James has been a much better player this winter in her second campaign for the Tartans.
“It is definitely just confidence; I feel like I upped my skill and my game and I got my mind right this year,” said James, who came into Monday averaging 7.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals a game “I am proud of the way I have played this year.”
Facing a gauntlet of tough foes, including such powerhouses as Trenton Catholic, St. Rose of Belmar, Miami Country Day (Fla.), and Christ the King (N.Y.) has given Stuart more confidence collectively as a team.
“I am happy that we have played that type of competition,” said James. “We play on a high level; we got exposed to the best and we get to see what we need to do to work towards that.”
The Tartans, now 13-9, are slated to host a Prep B semifinal contest on February 10 with the victor advancing to the title game on February 13. In addition, Stuart will be starting play in the Mercer County Tournament next week.
“We need to keep our energy up, keep our heads up, don’t allow a turnover to take us out of our game and just what we do do best, moving the ball,” said James, reflecting on the team’s mindset as it looks to excel in tournament play.
“I feel like this is going to help carry us through the preps and hopefully we can get the Prep B championship back-to-back and then next is the MCTs.”