January 18, 2023

With Senior Star Ix Providing Continuity, Leadership, Stuart Hoops Making Progress with Revamped Roster

X-FACTOR: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Emily Ix, right, dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior guard Ix scored eight points in a losing cause as Stuart fell 48-24 to Robbinsville. The Tartans, who moved to 1-3 with the loss, play at Noor-Ul-Iman School on January 20 and at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Stuart Country Day School basketball team experiencing major roster turnover from last season and going with freshmen and sophomores by necessity, Emily Ix has been a constant for the program.

“I am the only senior, it is definitely different that anything I have done before,” said Ix, who also plays on the Stuart field hockey and lacrosse teams. “It has been a learning experience for me, really learning how to bring different people together. I really love all of the girls on the team. It is really fun, we are playing really scrappy basketball.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Robbinsville, Stuart showed its scrappiness jumping out to an 8-6 lead in the first quarter.

“I was really pleased with how we started, we came out as a team with a lot of aggressiveness,” said Ix. “We have been working on defense a lot in practice. I feel like that really showed.”

But it was Robbinsville’s defense, though, that made the difference as the Ravens applied a full-court press in the second quarter and turned the tide of the contest, outscoring the Tartans 24-5 to build a 30-13 halftime lead on the way to a 48-24 win.

Ix acknowledged that Stuart struggled with the press. “Since we have only seven girls, it is hard to practice pressing,” said Ix, reflecting on the setback which dropped the Tartans to 1-3. “It is definitely different in games.”

While things got away in the second quarter, Stuart kept scrapping, battling the Ravens to an 11-11 standstill in the fourth quarter as Ix tallied seven points down the stretch.

“I felt a little more confident in the fourth quarter, I was definitely trying to be more aggressive,” said Ix, who ended up with eight points in the contest. “I need to learn how to do that from the get-go. The fourth quarter is definitely something we can build on. We are definitely trying to get better every day.”

In the view of Ix, the Tartans have been building a good team chemistry.

“A lot of team bonding has been going on, I feel like we are coming together as a unit,” said Ix. “We have never played together before. It has been fun to be a leader on the team and get to know everyone.”

Stuart head coach Tony Bowman credited Ix with setting a positive tone for his young squad.

“That is what I told her — don’t wait until the fourth quarter,” said Bowman, who has returned to the program this season after guiding the Tartans from 2003-11. “She has to lead by example. It is don’t wait for somebody else to start the offense, if you see an opening, take it. Make them follow behind you versus leading at the end. I told her I need you to lead throughout, and she is doing that. She is solid, she listens, and she works hard.”

Bowman is getting some good work from promising freshman forward Taylor States, who also scored eight points against Robbinsville.

“She has a lot of potential, I just need the light to click on,” said Bowman. “She is shooting straight up in front of somebody. It is use your whole arsenal, go around, or use a head fake. In the eighth grade with that height you can do that. In ninth grade you can’t do that, especially on a varsity team. There is no JV team here, so you are going from eighth grade to the varsity. She has a lot of beautiful moves and she has touch. She can do more.”

While Stuart is short-handed with only seven players and has to deal with fatigue, that hasn’t dimmed the squad’s enthusiasm.

“When you don’t have a sub and you are playing hard defense, you get tired,” said Bowman. “The recovery time wasn’t quick enough. They play hard all of the time, which I appreciate. Each kid from the top to the bottom plays hard and they give me their all. They learn quickly, and I appreciate that as well.”

With the Tartans playing at Noor-Ul-Iman School on January 20 and at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 23, Bowman believes his team is headed in the right direction.

“I feel they are developing, we are a lot closer today than in November,” said Bowman. “We have progressed — the defense has picked up, and the offense is getting better. People are knowing their roles, that is the key. We keep on plugging away. Because we are not that big and don’t have that many kids, we just have to be smarter.”

Ix, for her part, is confident that Stuart will keep plugging away.

“We are definitely looking forward to the future and playing more games,” said Ix, who is headed to Wake Forest University where she plans to play club field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. “I think now our momentum is going to carry forward. We are definitely working on being more aggressive.”