March 22, 2023

With Coach Bowman Returning to the Helm, Stuart Hoops Made Progress in Transition Year

PASSING LANE: Stuart County Day School basketball player Emily Ix passes the ball in a game this winter. Senior star Ix provided production and leadership as Stuart showed progress down the stretch in going 5-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Stuart County Day School basketball team, ending the winter with a pair of wins exemplified the progress it made in a season of transition.

With Tony Bowman returning to take the helm of the program after guiding the Tartans from 2003-11 and the roster down to seven players, it took a while for Stuart to get in sync.

“It was challenging in the beginning and then it became fun and we started playing basketball,” said Bowman, whose team topped STEM Civics 57-16 and Hamilton West 40-31 in the last week of the season to end the winter with a record of 5-6. “It was definitely a process. The kids had to get used to me and I had to get used to them. You come into somebody else’s system and then it breaks down from 12 kids to seven. Those are some of the things that you don’t foresee.”

Posting a 45-21 win over College Achieve Central in early January and then topping Noor-ul-Iman 53-13 helped get the Tartans on the right track.

“After we got our first two wins, then they got more confidence in themselves,” said Bowman. “We ran a lot more and got in better shape. In the fourth quarter, they weren’t tired.”

The Tartans displayed that confidence in cruising past STEM.

“The STEM game was a good game because we really ran the offense; I thought by that time we were learning how to play a smarter game,” said Bowman. “We looked for everybody and everybody on the whole team got to score. That was a first for us. Emily [Ix] and Taylor [States] are our main scorers, they did their thing but everybody else got into the offense. We all played a part in the offense and we all scored from the offense. There were a lot of fast breaks and moving the ball around and getting good shots so that was good for us.”

In the victory over Hamilton, Stuart excelled at the other end of the court.

“It was a good game, offensively we played poorly but defensively we played very, very well,” said Bowman. “The third and fourth quarters was probably the best defense we have played through the year. In that third and fourth quarter, we also made foul shots. I think we were 14-for-17.”

Bowman created his players with being extremely coachable, a trait that paid dividends down the stretch.

“The biggest area of improvement was believing in the system; they learned how to play good defense,” said Bowman. “They listen very well and they work very hard.”

The squad’s lone senior, Ix (109 points in 2022-23), played a pivotal role in that improvement.

“I can’t say enough about her, Emily did everything,” said Bowman. “She rebounds, she scores. At times she tried to do too much. She is a good leader, a good person, and a good student. I relied on her to pick up the team. When things were going rough, she would pick them up and bring them together. She would boost their confidence level, it worked out really well for us.”

Freshman Taylor States (a team-high 177 points) gave the Tartans some really good work in her debut campaign.

“Taylor started off slow; when you have people who drop out, somebody else has to step up and Taylor stepped up,” said Bowman. “She averaged 16 points, eight or nine rebounds a game, and four or five blocks. She is a very strong, talented kid. She got better and better.”

Bowman saw his other players — Anna-Rose Bourgin (26 points), Abby Chirik (36 points), Leila Hernandez-Lewis (29 points), Rachael Emil-Ashun (19 points), and Emily Harlan (2 points) — get better over the course of the season.

“Anna-Rose was able to distribute but I want her to score more,” said Bowman. “Abby was a surprise, she is a freshman. In the beginning, she wasn’t much of a force. By the end of the year, she was looking for her shot. She became one of my better defenders on the fast break. Leila showed bursts of brilliance, dribbling, shooting the ball, and driving. Rachel had some decent games, she is just learning the game. Emily came along, she works hard in practice.”

In Bowman’s view, the program has the potential to come along well with everyone now on the same page.

“I am looking forward to next year, I have a little more input now about the direction we are going,” said Bowman. “I am trying to make sure that these kids are playing during the summertime versus just playing with me. I am looking to see that they stay active and stay healthy.”