Dramatic comebacks are starting to become Nazareth’s thing.
For the second day in a row, the Lady Kingsmen struggled in the first half and went into the break down 12 points. Nazareth’s defense was again relentless in the second half and created enough offense to bring it all the way back for the team’s second win in two days, and its second Catholic Class A title on three seasons.
“Everything we do we fight to the end,” said Nazareth junior forward Niya Johnson. “We stay together as a team and execute as a team.”
Nazareth’s come-from-behind heroics against Kellenberg in the final were sparked by the play of junior guard Shalix Hines. She scored 22 of her 24 points after the break to help the Lady Kingsmen girls’ basketball team to a 68–59 victory at Archbishop Molloy on March 14.
“Shalix is a very good ball player,” said Nazareth coach Ron Kelley. “She is very up and down as we saw in this game. She was not so hot in the first half, but very good in the second half. She has done this over and over again. She is only a junior and has the ability to play big-time Division I basketball.”
Kellenberg outscored Nazareth 15–10 in the first quarter. The Firebirds went on a 11–5 run that was capped by a three-pointer by senior guard Lindsey Ehrhardt. The trend continues and Kellenberg went into halftime with a commanding 35–23 lead.
Nazareth played like a different team after the break. Its defense did exactly what it did on Friday to Cardinal Spellman when it started applying pressure to the ball handler. Nazareth beat Cardinal Spellman 65–50 thanks to a 20–2 third quarter run.
Kellenberg, like the Pilots before it, started making mistakes. Hines turned them into points. She came out with the hot shooting hand as she scored 12 third quarter points and put her team back into the game. Nazareth still trailed 48–45 at the end of three, but outscored Kellenberg 22–13 in the final frame.
“I think good teams are able to stay confident and learn form their mistakes in the first half,” coach Kelley said. “We just came back, refocused, and did what we had to do.”
The Lady Kingsmen didn’t fold under the pressure, but kept applying it to Kellenberg. Hines and Johnson both had 10 fourth-quarter points to help Nazareth outscore Kellenberg 22–13 in the final quarter and 40–23 in the second half to walk away champions.
Nazareth advances to the New York State Federation Class A semifinals. It faces the still to be determine New York Public High School Athletic Association winner on March 27 at UAlbany.
“Coach always tells us to keep going hard,” Hines said. “We come out flat most of the time. We are able to just pick things up in the second half. We put our heart in to it.”
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