National girls basketball powerhouse Nazareth Regional in Brooklyn, N.Y., will close at the end of the year, according to a news release from the board of trustees and the school's administration. The board voted unanimously to close the school amid declining enrollment and financial problems.
"Today's announcement is a difficult one, but sadly in today's economy, many Catholic schools have had to close," board chair Alice Hession said in the statement. "It's very sad that a great school like Nazareth has to be one of them."
Nazareth is nationally ranked in girls basketball and is the No. 1 team in New York City, according to ESPNNewYork.com. It's the third major Catholic school to close in the past year, along with former boys basketball powerhouse Rice and girls power St. Peter's.
Nazareth is 12-1 this season and loaded with future Division I talent, including West Virginia-bound guard Darius Faulk, Syracuse-bound guard Brianna Butler and top sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas.
"It's a little surprising. There has been speculation but it never really crossed my mind that Nazareth would actually be closing down," sophomore guard Sadie Edwards posted in a Facebook chat. "We are a family, so we are going to stick together. These girls aren't just my teammates, they're my sisters, so we'll be evaluating our options together."
A number of players moved from St. Michael Academy to Nazareth when St. Michael closed. Could another group move happen again?
"Anything is possible," Edwards said.
Nazareth has lost nearly 50 percent of its enrollment -- from 602 students to 311 -- since 2006, according to the news release. While the Diocese of Brooklyn and Xaverian Brothers have offered financial support, the current tuition cannot make up for the loss, according to the statement. It also said that enrollment projections predict further decline.
Nazareth, which opened in 1962, has asked other Catholic schools to give special consideration to Nazareth students looking to enroll next season. The school plans to meet with each student's family to help them land at a new school.
"It is a difficult time for Nazareth's administration, teachers, parents and students," principal Providence Quiles said in a statement. "Our focus over the next few months will be to ease our students into a transition, continue to focus on their academics and motivate them to complete the year with strong academic results. The staff will serve as advisers for course and school recommendations for each student and family; we want our students and families to know how much we care about them and their futures."
The closing of Nazareth adds to what has already been a very difficult year for the girls' team, which entered the season ranked No. 1 in the country. On Jan. 3, coach Apache Paschall died of a heart attack. Paschall, 38, had been the coach at St. Michael Academy and brought a handful of girls to Nazareth with him prior to last season.
After Paschall's death, Nazareth hoped to play scheduled games against Christ the King and Bishop Ford, but the administrations of both schools canceled those games.
The Lady Kings are also under investigation by the league for allegedly using an ineligible player in league play, which could result in forfeiture of the rest of the season. Nazareth is the defending New York State Federation Class AA and CHSAA Class AA state champion.
Matthew Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Rob Abruzzese was used in this report.