Nazareth had a tall task on Tuesday against the Christ the King. It was playing in a meaningless game that it felt it shouldn’t be playing anyway, coming off a tough loss to a team that it had already beaten by 40 points earlier this season, and to top it off, was playing without Syracuse-bound All-American Brianna Butler.
None of that mattered, though, as No. 1 Nazareth was as hungry as ever to beat No. 3 Christ the King and bested them, 68-58, behind an impressive 28-point performance from sophomore Sadie Edwards. Nazareth improved to 15-2 while Christ the King fell to 12-12.
Tuesday's game was the rescheduled contest for the Jan. 7 game that had been originally canceled by Christ the King following Nazareth coach Apache Paschall's death. Nazareth had asked for a forfeit but the schools' principals agreed instead to replay the game.
“We can't come out flat anymore,” Edwards said after the victory. “It's more of a wake-up call. It's better for us to lose now than to do that and lose in the playoffs. Today we didn't come out flat at all, we turned it around. It's better to get that loss in now instead of in two weeks and it is the end of our season.”
Nazareth co-coach Lauren Best said that the loss to Bishop Ford on Saturday may not have just spurred them on for this game, but may have a lasting effect going into the playoffs.
“I think the last game was important because it knocked the girls off their high horse and I think they needed that a little bit,” Best said. “I think we did a good job bouncing back today. It is important for us to end our season with a victory. You don't want to go into the playoffs flat.”
BUTLER OUT WITH KNEE INJURY: Butler sat out in this game because of a knee injury she sustained Saturday in the loss to Ford. She said it was nothing serious and she would probably be playing if this game had playoff implications, but instead she rested and will be back in time for the playoffs.
EDWARDS SHOWING AGGRESSIVENESS: With Butler out in this game, Edwards talked about how it was important for her to come out with some extra aggression and she certainly did. She made the first basket of the game and had 10 points in the first four and a half minutes as Nazareth jumped out to a 14-2 lead that ended up being the difference.
“Butler is a great scorer, but she brings more to the court than just great scoring,” Edwards explained. “She passes the ball, she rebounds, she's a leader, she brings a lot of intangibles and with her being out it was important for me to step up. I was just aggressive from the start, I made shots and I kept making shots throughout the game."
SIERRA’S QUIET 30: Sierra Calhoun struggled early on in the game and appeared to be off for a while, but by the second half really turned her game up and before long she was piling up the points. She finished with a career-high 30, including 11 from the free-throw line.
“She played much more under control late than early on,” Christ the Kingcoach Bob Mackey said. “Early she was trying to do it all at once picking up for everybody else. You can't rely on just one player scoring, you have to get more balance.”
By the time Calhoun really got hot, Nazareth had already built up an insurmountable lead. Christ the King pulled to within six at one point in the third quarter, but Nazareth quickly turned that around into a 14-point lead.
SOMETHING’S BUGGING CUEVAS: Early in the season, 20 and 30-point games were a regular thing for sophomore Bianca Cuevas, but for the second game in a row she was held to just 11 points. Even on defense she looked sluggish, but Best explained that she’s just been a little sick and it has been affecting her game.
“She's resting for the playoffs,” Best joked. “She hasn't been feeling well either. There has been a little bug going through our team. Bianca gets a little cranky when she's not feeling well, but she's fine.”
UP NEXT: Nazareth is off for a little while as it gets ready for the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens playoffs. Christ the King will face Molloy on Thursday at Bishop Ford in a game that will decide the No. 3 seed for the playoffs.