Nazareth’s highly anticipated clash with Trenton Catholic Academy (N.J.) was a last-minute cancellation at University High School’s Festival of the Phoenix event after the Lady Kingsmen didn’t make the trip to Kean University in Union, N.J., on Saturday night.
There are differing stories as to why the nationally ranked team didn’t show up, though.
“That tournament and that game isn’t on their schedule,” Nazareth athletic director Rochelle Murphy said.
It was not on a preliminary or final schedule given to our sister publication, The Post, by Nazareth either. But it has been on the tournament’s schedule for months.
Trenton Catholic was at Kean well before game time, which was set for 7:25 p.m., and suited up, ready to play. Tournament director and University coach Felicia Oliver said she was not contacted by anyone from Nazareth (6-1), ranked No. 7 in the country by USA Today, prior to the game to inform her they did not plan on attending.
“The first time I heard they were not coming was today,” said Oliver, who announced the game’s cancellation to the crowd.
Lady Kingsmen coach Apache Paschall, who was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure earlier this week, said that no attempt to contact Oliver today was made because in his and the team’s mind they were not scheduled to play. He said assistant coach Ron Kelley received a message from Oliver earlier this week saying that there was no game.
“Ron just showed me the text where he had a discussion with her and she said that she didn’t schedule us,” Paschall said.
Oliver vehemently denied ever sending a text message to Kelley and stated that she only dealt with Paschall during the process. She said that if she canceled a game with one team, she would have done so with the other. Kelley did not return phone messages late Saturday night.
“I think I would have known if they weren’t coming to play,” Oliver said of Nazareth.
Paschall had been in the hospital since Tuesday and has been ill since the beginning of the season. After a Dec. 4 win against rival Christ the King, Paschall checked into a hospital and was told he had water on his lungs and heart, but signed himself out later that night to be with his team at the Breezy Bishop Showcase in Baltimore and at his daughter’s 16th birthday party Monday. He is also currently under investigation by the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens disciplinary committee for alleged recruiting violations.
On its schedule, Nazareth was slated to play Trenton Catholic on Jan. 30 at the Kennedy Classic in The Bronx. The opponent was later changed to Oliver’s University team because it was believed the Lady Kingsmen would be playing TCA on Saturday night. Nazareth’s next scheduled game is Monday at home against Archbishop Molloy at 5 p.m. Many people in attendance Saturday, however, were hoping to see Nazareth on the court against a team featuring Rutgers-bound guard Briyona Canty, one of the best players in the country.
“It’s unfortunate they didn’t come,” one high-level college coach said. “It would have been great to see two great teams.”