Notre Dame Prep senior nets honors, attention for sharp shooting
Mar 26, 2019
GRAND RAPIDS — Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Sarah Stuart is more than just a big deal — she’s a certified hot-shot.
She was just one make away from becoming the top 3-point shooter in the state, finishing as runner-up in the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan’s Top Shooters Contest conducted during the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s girls basketball state championship weekend.
Stuart and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern senior Madi Stevenson reached the final round, and the duo put on a long-ball shooting display for the thousands looking on from the stands at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
“It was just a matter of forgetting what was going on around me, focusing on my shot and having fun,” Stuart said. “I just focused on my form shooting, and taking my time at each stop.”
Both girls each had one minute to attempt 25 three-pointers; five each from five designated spots around the arc. When Stuart and Stevenson each made 15 of 25, they repeated the final round in order to break the tie. This time, Stuart made 14, and Stevenson was one better, winning the title.
“She’s a great shooter and she did a great job, so I’m happy for her,” Stuart said.
Among those looking on was her coach, Tom Kocik.
“I was nervous for her, but once she hit the first one, I knew she’d be OK and she’d get in the groove, and that’s the type of player she is,” Kocik said. “Once she gets going and is locked in, everything else is locked out. I was probably more nervous than she was.”
While this was Stuart’s first time in the competition and she didn’t quite know what to expect, experience counted for Stevenson, who had also made the finals three years earlier when she attended Goodrich High School.
“My freshman year I came in second and it was at the Breslin (Center at Michigan State University), so this wasn’t as scary as you might think it was because I’d been there before, but you just knew everyone’s eyes were on it,” Stevenson said. “When I was at the Breslin I was so scared, but this wasn’t bad. I was calm and collected.”
Still, the contest wasn’t decided until the final station, in the left corner, where both girls excelled.
“My problem while I was shooting here was I was always shooting too fast, then on the last rack I had like 15 seconds left so I could slow down and that’s how I pretty much ended up winning, because I only had to make two shots and I had so much time to make them,” Stevenson explained.
Just to get to the finals, Stuart had to excel in the preliminary round — where she made 27 out of 50 attempts to narrow the field from 19 shooters to 10 — and in the semi-finals, where she made 20 out of 25 to advance with Stevenson.
For reaching the final round, both girls received framed certificates during a brief post-contest ceremony at center court.
With four seasons of varsity experience, Stuart found her niche as a shooting guard for the Fighting Irish. She tops the school’s record board for most 3-pointers made in a career, and she is second for career scoring. Stuart made 70 3-pointers this year, sinking 47.4 percent of her attempts — the second-best mark among the total field of Top Shooters contestants.
“Sarah ran the offense for us and brought the ball up the floor; she came up with big shots in big games,” Kocik said. “She’s just a well-rounded player; she plays offense, defense, everything. I’m going to miss her.”
A Rochester Hills resident, Stuart said that her competitive basketball career is likely drawing to a close.
“I might play club or intramural, but I’m not going to play at the college level,” she said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to study, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to Oakland University. It’s really close by my house so I can stay close by my family — that’s really important to me.”
“I know she’s going to be a great success going forward in whatever she does,” Kocik said. “She works hard. A lot of people have talent and they don’t work hard, but she works hard to make it even better. I’m very proud of her.”