END POINT: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nia Melvin handles the ball in a game this winter. Senior star point guard Melvin capped her stellar career by scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds in a 71-55 loss to Saddle River Day on March 4 in the season finale. Stuart ended the season with a 7-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Justin Leith will tell you that the most important stats produced by his Stuart Country Day School basketball team this winter were 51, 13, and 0.
“We had 51 practices and we were able to get in 13 games all in the midst of the pandemic and not one of our kids got a case,” said Stuart head coach Leith.
“There were exposures that took place but there was never a case where one of our kids tested positive. It is wonderful that we were able to pull this off. I am certainly proud of them. They were able to accomplish something, as did all of the kids did in the state and country that pulled this off, that no one ever has. They should be celebrated.”
Leith was proud of the way his squad competed in the last week of the season, losing two battles to Saddle River Day (75-61 on February 26 and 71-55 on March 4) to finish with a 7-6 record.
“It takes time to cultivate consistency, that is something we were able to do last year,” said Leith, noting that Stuart started 5-6 in 2019-20 before catching fire to end up 21-7, winning its third straight state Prep B title and making its first Mercer County Tournament final along the way.
“The last week of this season is where we had begun to cultivate the consistency of our work ethic. That is why we go up and down with Saddle River Day. They take the lead, we take the lead. We went up 10 at one point and they fought their way back. That is what happens when two very good teams are playing. It is a game of runs. I wasn’t worried about the win or the loss. I told the girls that we were really starting to come into our own where we are consistently working our butts off and there are no lulls. In those last two games of the season, we were getting to that place which usually takes place in December.”
Facing a gauntlet of tough foes helped Stuart raise the level of its game. more