On paper, Tuesday night's match-up between Nazareth and Bishop Ford was nothing more than a clash of two CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I titans. Both girls basketball teams entered the contest undefeated in league play, but the Lady Kingsmen felt they were fighting for something more than just continued perfection.
In front of its home crowd, top-ranked Nazareth crushed No. 2 Bishop Ford, 82-39.
By halftime, the Lady Kingsmen had created a 19-point deficit. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the winded Falcons just gave up.
On Jan. 5, two days after the death of Nazareth coach Apache Paschall, Bishop Ford didn't play a scheduled game against the Lady Kingsmen, instead opting to cancel. The Falcons' administration believed it was too soon after Paschall's passing to compete, while Nazareth was still eager to get on the court.
"The kids all came to the hospital, and we made a decision as a family, as a group to play," assistant coach Lauren Best said of the scheduled Jan. 5 game against Bishop Ford. "They took that from us."
Best insists there isn't any lingering tension with the Falcons' coaching staff, but the win definitely made a statement.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Although the first quarter was a sloppy eight minutes of basketball, chock full of turnovers and little offense, the Lady Kingsmen started to gain momentum by attacking with a mix of quick layups and 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas scored 10 of her game-high 20 points for Nazareth (9-1, 6-0) in the second quarter, sinking two shots from beyond the arc and attacking the paint, to help her team pull away.
Bishop Ford (15-2, 6-1) also faltered at the line, only shooting 48 percent from the charity stripe, while Nazareth shot 88 percent.
TURNING POINT: Cuevas' 10 points in the second pushed the Lady Kingsmen ahead, but Sadie Edwards closed it out in the fourth.Nazareth's own Mariano Rivera netted seven unanswered points at the beginning of the final quarter, and the game was out of reach.
"She's been our spark off the bench," Best said of Edwards. "She gets us going."
FORFEIT UPDATE: Nazareth Athletic Director Rochelle Murphy said she has yet to hear back from the league regarding a request to have two cancelled games changed to forfeits.
In addition to the Jan. 5 game the Lady Kingsmen were scheduled to play against Bishop Ford, Christ the King also cancelled a Jan. 7 match-up after Paschall's passing.
STAR OF THE GAME: Darius Faulk not only tallied 18 points, but she hustled, often poking the ball out of the Falcons' hands. The senior guard also fed a lot of passes to Cuevas inside the paint.
"We really don't care if it's a forfeit or not," Faulk said with a smile. "We wouldn't mind playing them again and playing like this all over again."
UP NEXT: Nazareth will face the Mary Louis Academy on Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. The Lady Kingsmen won their first meeting, 82-63, with Cuevas (17 points) and Brianna Butler (13 points) leading the way. Bishop Ford heads to Christ the King on Wednesday night.