Rapid Reax: (1) Nazareth 73, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) 61

Nazareth girls didn’t pressure the ball early. They let the opponent hang around. Then the second it became too close, too late in the game, Nazareth slammed Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) Saturday at the JFK Challenge. It was like coach Apache Paschall never left the bench.

“I always feel like he’s with me, but especially today,” co-head coach Lauren Best said. “This was typical him.”

Best and Ron Kelley manned the bench for Nazareth, playing for the first time at JFK without Paschall, who died earlier this month. The No. 7-ranked team in the country would have made their late coach proud. Paschall would always hold back his team’s press and surprise teams later with his squad’s relentless trapping defense.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Nazareth started slowly, which left the door open for a 3-point-crazy Point Pleasant Boro. Even with that, Nazareth built a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter. The score was tied at 29 with two minutes left in the half and Nazareth led 35-29 at halftime. When the Brooklyn squad couldn’t find easy baskets early, it relied on Brianna Butler, who scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half.

“In the first half they stayed with us because we didn’t play any defense,” Butler said. “We just had to step it up.”

Point Pleasant Boro stayed close early in the third, mostly behind Kelly Hughes, who scored a game-high 23 points. Nazareth never fully showed the full-court pressure that the team is known for but began dialing up man-on-man pressure on the guards and posted a 16-0 run. Nazareth went ahead 57-40 at the start of the fourth quarter and Boro never recovered.

TURNING POINT: The game had the feel that it could be a blowout, even though it was close. Nazareth seemed like it could get anywhere the team wanted offensively. But Lindsey Havens hit a 3-pointer that put Nazareth’s lead at 41-40 with 4:47 left in the third quarter. Then West Virginia-bound senior Darius Faulk drove to the lane for a layup for Nazareth and later forced a turnover and converted another. Her back-to-back layups sparked a 16-0 run. Faulk scored eight of her 12 points during the run. Nazareth outscored Point Pleasant Boro 24-2 over the next eight minutes from the middle of the third and halfway into the final period.

STAR OF THE GAME: Butler’s 16 points kept Nazareth’s offense going in the first half but it was Faulk’s defensive pressure and penetration in the third quarter that ignited the team. Yasmine Belk also added 20 points.

UP NEXT: Nazareth will face DePaul (N.J.) Sunday at 4p.m. in the second day of the JFK Challenge.