PRINCETON: Stuart’s Spaulding nets 1,000th point in victory over PDS

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Stuart Country Day School's Jalynn Spaulding scored her 1

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Jalynn Spaulding may not have been thinking too much about how close she was to scoring her 1,000th career point, but the rest of the Stuart Country Day School basketball community was.
With balloons in the background, players from the middle school team crept closer and closer to the court as Spaulding drew closer to the milestone. When her layup with 2:10 left to play in the opening quarter against Princeton Day School on Wednesday produced her 1,000th career point, the younger players were as happy as anyone.
“I just wanted to play like normal,” said Spaulding, who finished the game with 15 points as the Tartans topped PDS, 60-35. “I still wanted to pass and do the right things. I think it is important, but I am just trying to focus on winning. It has come into my mind, but I have not been super focused about it.”
Spaulding’s basket helped Stuart build a 22-0 lead after the first quarter. The lead grew to 26-0 before the Panthers started to get back into the game.
“I feel like when we get a lead we have to maintain the lead and not get lazy,” Spaulding said of the win. “So it is important to keep the defense going.”
The  victory lifted Stuart’s record to 4-1 on the season, while PDS fell to 1-4 with the loss. Bey-Shana Clark led the Tartans with 16 points, while Jasmine Hansford scored 11 and Nia Melvin scored 10.
“I think the team chemistry this year feels like it is the best it has ever been,” said Spaulding, a senior who is in her third year with Stuart. “I feel like we are meshing well together and have a really good shot at competing in the Prep B and the Mercer County Tournament.
“I want to try to keep us more together. If we get down and we have problems in a game we have to come together.”
The triumph over PDS came after a weekend at the Mercersburg (Pa.) Tournament, where Stuart posted victories over St. Anne’s-Belfield of Virginia and Stone Ridge of Maryland.
“I don’t want to look at the scoreboard,” said Stuart coach Justin Leith, whose team will host New Hope-Solebury today. “I just want them to be consistent. We talked about that last week. We beat a top team in the state of Virginia on Friday and then we had a game on Saturday. It was about consistency. The week before that we beat Peddie by one point and then we lost to Pennington and we looked like two different teams.
“The idea coming in today was to be more consistent and not worry about the score and make sure we just played tough defense and ran our offense.”
The gym had a special feel to it as Spaulding edged closer to he 1,000th career point. She needed seven points coming into the game and with each basket the excitement grew.
“The biggest jump with Jalynn has really been from last year to this year,” Leith said. “She has been finishing around the basket and pushing the basketball. She has been shooting the ball well and overall she has been a leader to our eight freshmen. We have eight freshmen this year and the expectations have been set for her for three years and Maddie for four years so they’re really helping them with the transition period of being freshmen.”
Spaulding and Madeline Michaels are the two key seniors in the lineup. Clark is a junior, Hansford a sophomore and the roster includes eight freshman. Among them is Melvin, who has taken over as the Tartans’ point guard.
“She is a good addition to the team,” Spaulding said. “She stays calm and runs the offense really well. She is our main point guard now and that is really good for us.”
Leith likes the direction his young team has taken this year, building on each game.
“As long as we continue to get better every practice and every game I will be happy and we have certainly done that so far,” Leith said.
On the other side, PDS shook off a rough start to the game and played Stuart even over the last three quarters of the game. After trailing by as much as 26 points, the Panthers outscored Stuart the rest of the way.
“We just have not been healthy,” PDS coach Kamau Bailey said. “In no game thus far have I had all five starters. We went to the tournament at Hill with only two of our starters. We were missing Maddie Coyne and Kate Bennett had a knee injury. So that was tough going into that tournament with just two starters.
“We just have to work on our execution a little bit better. This is one of those teams that if we played them a little later in the season maybe it would have been a different result.”
Bridget Kane finished with 15 points and Coyne had 12 in the loss to Stuart. The Panthers fell to 1-4 but showed enough after the opening quarter to be encouraged going forward.
“I have a really good group of girls right here and they are working hard in practice,” said Bailey, who has also been with starter Ryan Robinson all season. “As soon as we tweak a few things and everyone is back and healthy we’ll be good to go.
“I think we are going to have a really solid season. I am optimistic about who we have and where we are at right now. On this particular day we didn’t get off to a good start.”
Once they are healthy, the Panthers have plenty of experience with a senior group that includes Kane, Coyne, Robinson and Bennett.
“We’ll be fine,” Bailey said. “We have all the right pieces. It’s just a matter of putting them all together.”