Apache Paschall isn’t a believer there is such a thing as a good loss, especially one that gives a rival confidence.
So after his Nazareth girls basketball team dropped a 74-57 home decision last Saturday to rival Christ the King in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls basketball, he didn’t see it as a wake-up call for his girls, but a boost for the Royals.
The Lady Kingsmen beat Christ the King in Middle Village in early December and were riding an 11-game winning streak coming into the game. The teams, who could see each other multiple times in the coming months, are now dead-locked atop the division.
“I think people make up these stupid clichés to try to sound smart,” Paschall said. “I’m just stupid enough to tell people it don’t work. … We beat them the first time and then they beat us. Now they are confident they can beat us.”
Christ the King gained that same feeling midway through the first quarter when Lady Kingsmen junior point guard Darius Faulk left the game with two fouls and her team leading 8-2. The Royals outscored Nazareth 30-7 after that over the first and second quarters to take a 32-15 lead with 3:37 left in the first half. Paschall tried combinations of Bianca Cuevas, Shanice Woodson and Shiclasia Brown, but CK forced turnovers and battled with the Nazareth bigs on the boards.
“People expect us to be alright because Bianca is such a talent, but Bianca is just a freshman,” Paschall said. … “The responsibly falls on [Darius’] shoulders. She has to lead this team. If she does not lead this team we are in trouble, period.”
He felt he caused trouble of his own by staying too long in a 2-3 zone and not going man-to-man or being even more aggressive defensively. When Nazareth, ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today, did switch the Brooklyn squad responded with a 9-0 run, mostly at the free-throw line to get within 35-28 at the half. Cuevas scored 11 points, Taylor Ford had 10 and Faulk and Brown each had nine for Nazareth.
“I let them get the momentum and it was too deep of a hole to get out of,” Paschall said.
Added Ford: “We weren’t getting back on defense. Our defense was horrible.”
The Lady Kingsmen, who missed a bundle of easy shots early, would constantly creep closer, getting within six points twice in the third. Cuevas hit a 3-pointer to make it 40-34 with 4:55 left and it was 47-41 on a Bra’Shey Ali putback with 2:13 remaining But CK took a 51-43 lead into the fourth. Royals guard Bria Smith scored 31 points and broke full-court pressure by herself multiple times. Lauren Nuss had 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
“She handles the pressure well,” Faulk said of Smith. “We were throwing her around a little bit, but she kept getting back up and hitting the free throws.”
It was her two shots from the charity stripe that pulled Nazareth within 57-53, the closest it would get, with 3:41 left in the game. But Smith hit two free throws of her own and Nuss buried a 3-pointer from the right corner during a 7-0 run that put the game and a chance for regular-season sweep away.
“I have been telling them all season that people are going to catch up with us,” Paschall said. “This is one of those days.”