Nazareth’s Bianca Cuevas told her teammates and her coach exactly how the fourth quarter was going to go. In the midst of the best game of her career, the McDonald’s All-American guard instructed them to not run any more plays and just let her send them to the Catholic Class AA girls’ basketball state final.
“I was just like, ‘Give me the ball,’” Cuevas said. “I’m going to the basket. That’s it.”
The South Carolina-bound guard kept going and kept scoring.
Cuevas tallied a career-high 50 points to lead the Lady Kingsmen to a thrilling 85–82 victory over rival Christ the King in the semifinals at Holy Trinity on Friday night. Nazareth snapped the Royals’ 18-game winning streak and will face St. Anthony’s 7 p.m. Saturday back at Holy Trinity in the title game. Cuevas felt early on it was going to be a special night.
“I knew I was going to have a game like this because of the way I was shooting in the layup line,” she said. “I was feeling good.”
Cuevas, who had 24 points at the half, scored 15 in the fourth quarter. She tallied 12 of Nazareth’s first 14 points in the frame. Her others were a 3-point play with 1:24 remaining to put Nazareth, which trailed most of the game, up for good at 84-82.
The 5-foot-6 Cuevas was 13-of-15 from the free throw line and connected on five 3-pointers. Her ability to vary speeds off the dribble and her toughness allowed her to get to the basket at will. She also played forward on defense for most of the game and had a hand in a huge stop late on Christ the King’s Sierra Calhoun, who is also a McDonald’s All-American.
“Incredible show today, it’s an incredible show,” Nazareth coach Ron Kelley said. “She put on a show today. It was nice to watch.”
Cuevas went toe-to-toe with Calhoun, who scored just 11 of her 36 points in the second half as Nazareth was able to use junk defenses to keep the ball out of her hands. Still Calhoun scored five straight points to give the Royals (22–4), who led by as much as 12 in the third quarter, a 78-75 lead with 3:16 left in the game.
That is when Nazareth (20–6) got a big boost from Virginia Commonwealth University-bound forward Yazmine Belk after being riddled with foul trouble much of the night. She converted two huge put backs and a late free throw. Along with forward Sofia Roma, she blocked Kollyns Scarbrough on the Royals’ last significant possession.
“I had to get a clean block on the ball or else they would have called a foul and that would be it,” Belk said. “I had to dig down and find a way to get a stop.”
Nazareth’s Jen Fay, who is headed to Quinnipiac, scored 15 points before leaving the game in the third quarter with leg cramps. Belk tallied seven points. Scarbrough scored 13 points for Christ the King, which won both regular-season meetings and the diocesan title. Sydney Zambrotta added 12 points for the Royals.
Nazareth understands the journey isn’t done. It still needs to beat St. Anthony’s if it wants to earn a spot in the state Federation Class AA tournament for the third time in four years. There is still business to attend too.
“It’s still not over yet,” Cuevas said. “We still have another game to go. We are going to try to play like we played today.”