January 4, 2017

Stuart Hoops Falls in Final of Invitational But Shows Effort That Bodes Well for 2017

PASSING GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Bey-Shana Clark passes the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Clark scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tartans fell 48-42 to Kent Place in overtime in the championship game of their Stuart Invitational Basketball Tournament. It was the first loss of the season for the Tartans, who moved to 9-1. In upcoming action, Stuart hosts Nottingham on January 5 and Randolph on January 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bey-Shana Clark had reason to be upset after the Stuart Country Day School basketball team fell short of winning its annual holiday invitational tournament, squandering a late lead in losing to Kent Place in overtime last Friday in the championship game of the tourney.

Instead, Stuart sophomore forward Clark smiled as she reflected on the way the Tartans battled tooth-and-nail even as they let a 39-37 lead slip away in suffering their first defeat and falling to 9-1.

“We did everything we could do; the effort was the biggest thing here and we just kept pushing,” said Clark.

“The breakdown was just boxing out; they were getting second shots. Other than that, we played to our fullest; we executed and everything.”

In the loss to Kent Place, Clark executed on the offensive end, scoring 14 points, making hoops in the paint and from the perimeter.

“A Stuart family donated a shooting machine and so we work on our shooting more,” said Clark. “I am starting to shoot more 3s now.”

Clark and junior guard Jalynn Spaulding have been working together very well this season for the Tartans.

“We are good, we see each other on the court,” said Clark, who made the All-Tournament team along with Spaulding. “We are able to pass the ball to each other. We know where we are all the time and we just talk.”

In Clark’s view, Stuart’s good defense has been key to its good start.

“Defense wins games and we work our butts off in practice,” said Clark. “Defense is our main thing and then we execute on offense.”

While Stuart head coach Justin Leith would have loved to see his team win the game against Kent Place, he saw the performance as a step forward.

“It is a learning experience and I am happy to have it,” said Leith. “I am totally fine with the loss; it wasn’t a situation where the girls didn’t give any effort or they gave up. They played their butts off and things didn’t go our way. Even with the things we didn’t fix, things could have gone our way.”

In Leith’s view, the Tartan players will benefit from the loss in the long run.

“I did not expect to be 27-0 at the end of the season; I told the kids after the game this is perfect because we are looking to peak at the right time,” said Leith.

“This was an opportunity to expose some of the things that we need to do better, obviously boxing out. We need to shoot more free throws in practice. There were some defensive breakdowns at the end that really hurt us and that is fine with me because I don’t expect to be at our best in December.”

Junior guard Spaulding did a lot of good things in defeat, scoring 22 points.

“I think Jalynn took a step forward; she attacked a little more than she has been,” said Leith.

“She finished a little better than she has in the first nine games and I am hoping and expect that is the standard and for her to continue to improve along with everyone else.”

Leith likes the way Clark sets the standard in the paint for the Tartans. “Bey is a great inside finisher; she is a great rebounder and a great presence to have on the inside,” said Leith.

“They played a 1-3-1, which is always difficult for an interior player because basically you are going to get double-teamed a lot, especially if the other team keys in on her. They had some good athletes and some strong players. Even with that, she was able to end up with 14, she certainly wasn’t shut down.”

Although Leith was happy to see his team reel off nine straight wins to start the season, he is focused on postseason success.

“I don’t care about the winning right now,” said Leith, whose team hosts Nottingham on January 5 and Randolph on January 7.

“We did what we had to do, we didn’t have the strongest schedule at the start, which is fine. Every practice and every game is a learning experience. We are just trying to get better so when we get to February, we are prepared.”

Clark, for her part, is confident that the Tartans will keep getting better and better.

“We have our next game against Nottingham and we have to just go from there,” said Clark. “We need to keep working and put our hearts in it.”