February 8, 2023

Stuart Basketball Shows Improvement, Resilience, Battling Hard in Loss to Pennington in Prep B Tourney

MAKING A STATEMENT: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Taylor States heads to the hoops in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman star States scored 18 points in a losing cause as seventh-seeded Stuart fell 61-34 to second-seeded Pennington in the Prep B state quarterfinals. The Tartans, now 3-5, host Peddie on February 8 and Solebury School (Pa.) on February 10 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Stuart Country Day School basketball team’s 61-34 loss to Pennington in the Prep B state quarterfinals last Saturday was disappointing on one level, the performance actually represented progress for the Tartans.

Having been routed 71-26 by Pennington its season opener on December 5, Stuart displayed reliance and grit in the postseason rematch.

“The light is really shining right now,” said Stuart head coach Tony Bowman, whose team moved to 3-5 with the defeat. “The loss to Pennington was a loss only in the record because it was a win for leadership, for mobility, for our effort, and for our conversation and just being together as a team. It was big for us.”

Seventh-seeded Stuart battled to the final whistle against second-seeded Pennington, getting outscored just 29-27 in the second half.

“We really did well in the third and fourth quarter, it was much closer,” said Bowman. “The girls said, ‘We want more.’ In the beginning of the season, we were kind of distraught. We weren’t wanting to play more games against talented teams. Now they are wanting to play anybody. They want to get on the floor and test their wits. I appreciate that.”

Bowman appreciates the stellar play he is getting from freshman standout Taylor States, who produced a breakout game with 31 points in 53-13 win over Noor-Ul-Iman School on January 20.

“I don’t expect her to score 30 points every game, but I do expect her to score 18 or 20,” said Bowman of the precocious States who tallied 18 points against Pennington. “That is a lot for a freshman, but she has been doing well. I think it is confidence, good practices, and good work ethic that have helped her. She is a very coachable kid.”

Senior guard Emily Ix, who had 12 points in the loss to the Red Hawks, is providing production and leadership in her final campaign. 

“Emily has been consistent; she is a leader, she is my senior,” said Bowman. “She leads on and off the floor. She leads in practice. I am happy to have her, she is a very coachable kid. She has made my life a lot easier. She is a role model in the Stuart community for young ladies.”

As Bowman has returned to the guide the program this winter after coaching the Tartans from 2003-11, he has gotten on the same page with his players.

“As a new coach, the kids were not familiar with me,” said Bowman. “We had that learning curve. They know what I expect now and they know what needs to be done. They put forth the effort. We were kind of shy in the beginning and now we are not as shy.”

Heading into the final weeks of the campaign, Bowman is looking for some more aggressive and sharper play.

“For the rest of the season, it is to finish strong and get balanced scoring,” said Bowman. “Right now, I have got scoring from Taylor and from Emily. We have to slow down on the turnovers on our frontline turnovers and our backcourt turnovers. We need to get scoring from more than two people.”

The trio of Anna-Rose Bourgin, Abby Chirik, and Rachel Emil-Ashun have been getting better as the season has gone on.

“Anna-Rose is my point guard right now; I need her to be consistent and be a floor leader,” said Bowman. “She is working towards it. Abby has had some decent games. She has come a long way from not starting to starting and being a two guard. Right now we only have six players, and Rachael is the first person off the bench. She has definitely been a spark. She is a small forward; she is getting rebounds and giving us some decent production on offense.”

No matter what happens over the rest of the season, Bowman believes the foundation is being laid for future success.

“They have played well, they don’t give up,” said Bowman. “In beginning, we would get down 10 and we would give up. Now we can be down 15 and they are just plugging away and pushing. Even at the end of the game, they are pushing hard. When the kids want to play hard for you and you are down 10 or 15 points, and it is at the end of the fourth quarter, and there are two minutes left in the game, and they are still playing like it is the first quarter — that is a plus for me.”