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Nazareth falls short against rival Christ the King

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There was only so much Bianca Cuevas could do.

Nazareth’s McDonald’s All-American guard scored 18 of her game-high 25 points in the first half of a 64–59 loss to host Christ the King in Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball last Thursday night.

Foul trouble and double teams limited her production after the break. The Lady Kingsmen, despite four Division-I signees, did not have another player step up, and failed to convert key plays down the stretch. That kept Nazareth from forcing at tie at the top of the division, and disappointed the coach.

“We are supposed to be good enough to weather the storm when [Cuevas] is sitting on the bench,” said Nazareth coach Ron Kelley.

Nazareth (18–5, 7–2) led 35–31 at the break, but watched the Royals out score them 19–6 over the third and fourth quarters to take a 52–46 advantage with 5:26 remaining in the game.

Christ the King’s Sydney Zambrotta scored eight-straight points to get the spurt going, and All-American Sierra Calhoun and senior Kollyns Scarbrough took over early in the fourth, taking advantage of Nazareth’s failing energy.

“The third quarter we started slacking,” Cuevas said. “If we would have been playing the same way, we would have been up more. Then we were making little mistakes.”

Cuevas returned to the game with 4:05 remaining in the final frame after picking up her fourth foul early in the quarter, and nearly brought Nazareth back. She buried consecutive three-pointers but was called for a questionable travel that negated a potential three-point play. After feeding Sofia Roma for a hoop, she had a chance to cut the Royals (18–3, 9–0) lead to one with two free throws, but she sank just one.

It was one of several plays Nazareth didn’t make down the stretch. Cuevas was 1 of 4 from the line, and Shiclasia Brown could not convert two layups.

“Tough games like that, it’s always the little thing like that that counts, not the spectacular plays,” Kelley said. “The turnovers are big, the foul shots are big, and missed layups are big.”

He wanted to see his players be more aggressive offensively, and he felt that their drop in defensive intensity led to a big third quarter for Christ the King.

Yazmine Belk and Niya Johnson scored nine points apiece. Nazareth led 33–27 late in the second quarter when the ball was moving on offense.

“They depended on me too much,” Cuevas said. “It’s a team game. You can’t just depend on me.”

These two teams will likely meet two more times — in the diocesan title game and the in Catholic Class AA final. Kelley knows his squad needs to preform better if it is going to claim those crowns.

“I have kids who are being too passive and not going after it like they should,” Kelley said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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