January 15, 2020

Sparked by Martin’s Vocal Leadership, Stuart Hoops Gets on Winning Track

IN CHARGE: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Catherine Martin dribbles the ball in recent action. Junior guard/forward Martin has emerged as a leader for the Tartans, getting named as a team captain earlier this season. Last week Martin tallied 16 points to help Stuart defeat Pennington 70-24. The Tartans, who topped Hopewell Valley 63-21 last Saturday to improve to 9-6, face Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) on January 18 in the Elite Prep Nationals Yes to Success and then play at Princeton Day School on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Catherine Martin earned a battlefield promotion earlier this season for the Stuart Country Day School basketball team.

“My coaches named me captain, I love supporting my team,” said junior guard/forward Martin.

“This year, I am a leader on the team, I want to help out my teammates as much as I can. It is nice to have the chance to step up.”

Martin stepped up last week, scoring 16 points to help Stuart cruise to a 70-24 win over Pennington, snapping a losing streak in the rivalry.

“We knew we were going to win, we knew we had to win,” said Martin, reflecting on the January 7 contest.

“It has been so many years and it was time. We came in here, no remorse, no fear that we were going up against them.”

Starting the game with a 22-0 run, the Tartans displayed a remorseless defensive approach.

“We wanted to shut them out, that was the goal the whole game,” said Martin. “You aim for that mindset.”

At the offensive end, the Tartans achieved a nice balance with Ariel Jenkins tallying 13 points, Lauren Klein adding 12 and Laila Fair contributing 10.

“We were playing together today, we were moving the ball with pace,” said Martin.

“We played inside and out; we wanted everyone to have the ball. We wanted to move it from side to side so something would open up for our post and get an inside shot.”

While Martin isn’t usually the team’s top scorer, she got into a groove against Pennington.

“My shot was very sharp,” said Martin. “You just have to keep shooting, that is what I have learned.”

Winning the Roselle Catholic Holiday Tournament to wrap up December on the heels of going 1-4 at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., the Tartans were feeling sharp coming into 2020.

“It helped us get a winning mindset,” said Martin of winning the competition in Roselle.

“Arizona was kind of tough but it was great exposure to the best. We need to see the best in order to become the best. We are going to aim to become better because we want to win MCTs this year; that is the goal.”

Stuart head coach Justin Leith saw the performance against Pennington as a baby step forward.

“It was good, it was decent, but it is not where we want to be,” said Leith.

“I am not worried about wins or losses. With these top teams that we are playing, even though we have lost, we have shown we can play at an elite level.”

In any event, it was good for Stuart to snap the losing streak against the rival Red Raiders.

“We knew they weren’t what they have been but it is the first time since we have been here that we beat them,” said Leith.

“We have been trying to put a blank face and a blank jersey on every team and work at our highest level so that when we play some of these stronger teams, we are ready for them.”

Leith credited Martin with being a strong voice on the court for the Tartans.

“Catherine was made a captain after a couple of games in the season because of what she does defensively and how much she talks,” said Leith. “She is the motor behind our team.”

Getting the title at the Roselle tourney was a boost for Stuart. “It always feels good to win, especially against Roselle Catholic (67-26 in the final on December 30), we won the right way,” said Leith, whose team topped Hopewell Valley 63-21 last Saturday to improve to 9-6 and faces Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) on January 18 in the Elite Prep Nationals Yes to Success and then plays at Princeton Day School on January 21.

“It didn’t matter who we were playing, we would still have been in the game against anybody. We played hard from start to finish and that second five came in and raised the level.”

Martin, for her part, acknowledges that the Tartans need to raise the level of their game with postseason play looming.

“Heading into the homestretch, we need to work on pace and moving the ball faster,” said Martin.

“We want to improve our offense. Our defense is pretty good and we usually focus on defense. This year, coach wants to focus on offense because we want to work on our weaknesses; that is the only way to get better.”