New York High School: Jasmine Nwajei

Rapid Reax: No. 1 Nazareth 82, No. 8 MLA 63

December, 12, 2011
Bianca Cuevas stopped at the top of the arc, took a brief look at the defense and then drilled a three-pointer for Nazareth just 28 seconds into the game. It was Nazareth’s first possession and one of the most fluid baskets in game that didn’t have many.

But it started a run that saw Nazareth build a 14-point lead in the first quarter, a lead that Mary Louis chipped into but could never break during Nazareth’s 82-63 home victory in a showdown between two of the most highly-touted teams in New York City.

Many thought that Mary Louis would be big test for Nazareth, playing in its season opener. Cuevas didn’t think so though.

“We didn’t play to our ability,” the sophomore guard said. “We could have played better. We could have blew them out more.”

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Nazareth, ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s FAB 50 and's poll, jumped out to a 17-3 lead after Cuevas nailed the trey to start the game. But No. 8 Mary Louis made its on run led by Jasmine Nwajei (26 points), who sliced through Nazareth’s full-court pressure and forced her way to the basket, helping cut the lead down to four with five minutes left in the first half.

The Hilltoppers (1-3, 0-2 Brooklyn/Queens Division I) were still within five points with 1:40 left in the first half after back-to-back layups by Nwajei. But Nazareth (1-0, 1-0) forced three straight turnovers for three straight baskets and carried an 11-point lead and much of the momentum headed into halftime.

It only got worse from there. Mary Louis failed to convert a field goal in the third quarter, scoring seven points on free throws while Nazareth’s lead ballooned to as much as 23. From there, it became a free-throw shooting contest.

“We played right into their hands,” Nwajei said. “They tried to rush of with the press. We played right into it.”

STAR OF THE GAME: It’s hard to pick one player of the game but the gold star would go to Nazareth’s defense. It took three and a half minutes for Mary Louis to score its first field goal of the game and the Hilltoppers went without a basket in the third.

THE TRANSERS: A lot of the talks before the season for Nazareth centered around transfers Sadie Edwards (Our Lady of Mercy School in Connecticut), Destini Feagin (Ben Davis in Indiana) and Syracuse-bound Brianna Butler (William Penn Charter School in Pennsylvania), the ranked No. 13 in on ESPN’s Top 100 list. Edwards led Nazareth with 19 points, Butler scored 13 and Feagin struggled badly before fouling out with four points.

THE NUMBERS: For a game that was the highly anticipated, it was marred by whistles and bad shooting from the free-throw line.

54: total foul calls

31: total missed free throws (23 by Mary Louis)

3: the number of Nazareth players that fouled out

1: technical foul (called on Mary Louis coach Joe Lewinger)

0: Field goals by Mary Louis in the third quarter.

QUOTE OF THE GAME: Many considered Mary Louis, which has now lost to Bishop Loughlin and Nazareth before playing Bishop Ford Wednesday, the second-best team in the CHSAA behind Nazareth. Cuevas was asked if she thought her team made a statement with the decisive win.

“Yeah,” she said. “That we’re the best team in the league. I don’t think they’re the second-best team.”

UP NEXT: Mary Louis will visit Bishop Ford on Wednesday in search for its first league win. Nazareth will visit rising Bishop Loughlin.

Rapid Reaction: B/Q DI Playoffs: No. 3 TMLA 50, No. CK 42

March, 3, 2011
NEW YORK – The Christ the King Royals have played in every CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens championship game for 27 years. That streak is over after Mary Louis Academy pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year beating the Royals 50-42 Thursday at Christ the King in Middle Village.

The win wasn’t a surprise to Mary Louis head coach Kevin White, but he did admit it was a long time coming.

“I used to have hair when we this thing started,” White said with the gym lights shining off his perfectly shaved head.

“You never know from day to day. We've worked very hard all season and by now the girls really know their roles. It's been a long season.”

HOW THIS GAME WAS WON: The No. 3 Hilltoppers (18-6) beat the No. 2 Royals (19-8) by playing strong defense, shutting down the Royals role players, and getting some clutch shots.

The offense started slowly in this game as both teams scored just seven points each in the first quarter and didn’t score at all for the first three minutes to start the second. Christ the King did go on a short 11-0 run to end the second quarter where it got a pair of three-pointers from Lauren Nuss and five points from Bria Smith. The Royals lead 20-13 going into the half.

Despite the lead, things didn’t look good for Christ the King early. It received half its points from Smith, and key players Nia Oden and Rayne Connell were struggling to score even uncontested shots. Even Nuss, aside from her two three-pointers, struggled to make baskets.

In the third quarter Christ the King tried to up their offensive tempo, but the strategy backfired and left the squad open defensively. Mary Louis took advantage of this and got its offense rolling. The key was getting the ball to get the ball to Karin Robinson, who was often double teamed which allowed her to find open teammates. Her teammates, Reanna Mohammed, Brianna Harris, and Jasmine Nwajei, made their shots too as the trio combined for 12 points in the third quarter.

“Everyone was so focused on me that everyone else was open,” Robinson said. “It gave us plenty of opportunities.”

The two sides were tied at 31-31 going into the fourth quarter, but despite that Mary Louis had all the momentum. Christ the King struggled to make even easy shots while Mary Louis was just getting hot.

The fourth quarter continued this as Robinson established herself early. She hit a layup to take a 35-34 lead and with her team up 38-34 converted on a three-point play that left the Hilltoppers with a seven-point lead that was too much for Christ the King to overcome.

TURNING POINT: With a seven point lead going into the third quarter, Christ the King had a chance to put Mary Louis away. Instead, it allowed the Hilltoppers back into the game as it watched them go on a 9-4 run to open the quarter.

“Coming out of the half,” White said, “I told them the first three minutes of the third quarter are the most important because they were going to come out and try to get on one of their runs.”

Instead of putting Mary Louis away, the Royals allowed them back into the game. After they refused to go down early, Mary Louis had all the confidence they needed to win the game.

“From that point I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to win the game,” Robinson said.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: This game was all Robinson. She lead her team with 18 points including 10 in the fourth quarter. Even when she wasn’t scoring she was drawing at least two defenders at a time that left teammates open.

“Tonight I thought we played with composure and it all starts with your point guard,” White said. “Karin did a fantastic job of remaining poised and composed. We needed her to show some leadership and I thought she stepped up and played very, very well.”

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Mary Louis was ranked No. 3 to Christ the King’s No. 2, but the feeling was that there was a big difference between those two seeds. Nobodyexpected Mary Louis to have much of a chance, let alone win the game, but in the end it wasable to beat Christ the King for the first time in the team's history and stop Christ the King's run of 27 consecutive championship appearances.

QUOTE OF THE GAME: “I thought it was the last time we would ever play Christ the King and we weren't going to give them anything. After four years we came a long way. I'm excited, I'm speechless. It's been a while.”--Robinson

THE OTHER SEMI FINALS MATCHUP: No. 1 Nazareth defeated No. 5 Bishop Ford, 42-32, in the other CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I semifinal.

UP NEXT: The CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I final will take place March 5 at Bishop Ford in Brooklyn between Mary Louis Academy and Nazareth.