New York High School: Joe Lewinger

Paschall bonded with Mary Louis coach

January, 3, 2012
Through suffering, a pair of rival basketball coaches forged a connection.

As Nazareth girls basketball coach Apache Paschall, who died on Tuesday, battled skin cancer this fall and winter, he talked at times with Mary Louis girls basketball coach Joe Lewinger, who has a pair of six-year-old twins that had or currently have cancer. It allowed the two coaches to develop a relationship beyond that of two coaches competing for a title.

"You have a situation where I got to see a different side of him, a more personal side of him and he was very appreciative and I was asking if I can help him or offer advice," Lewinger said on Tuesday. "Call it whatever you want, there was a different form of a coaching relationship there."

Lewinger's pair of six-year-old twins, Madison and Jack, were both diagnosed in 2008 with Wilms' tumor, a form of kidney cancer. The coach said that Jack beat the cancer in 2009 while Madison relapsed twice and he is hopeful they now have it under control. Lewinger took a year off from coaching during the 2010 season as he attended to his kids' health and said that Paschall, then coaching at St. Michael Academy, would ask how Lewinger's children were doing.

When Lewinger found out that Paschall had been diagnosed with skin cancer in the fall, he sought out the Nazareth coach in hope of being able to lend a helping hand. Lewinger believed that he would be able to help out Paschall with his advice having watched and helped his two children as they battled cancer.

The coach said that he and Paschall had a bunch of private discussions about cancer and Paschall was very inquisitive at times.

"We both understood that we may be coaches and colleagues but at the same time we had the same struggle together," Lewinger said. "He was very appreciative of those discussions. There were times when he had no questions, there were times when he had some questions."

He added: "I hope the conversations helped. It was just advice. I'm not a doctor. I just told him some of the things about my dealings with cancer and having to be an advocate for my daughter and son and I wanted to make sure he was his own advocate. I hope they were beneficial in case of any decision he had to make."

Lewinger's team lost to Paschall's Nazareth squad earlier this season, Nazareth's first this campaign. The coach was thankful that his last conversation with Paschall was more on a personal level than one about their coaching lives. He said that Paschall's death is a big loss for New York City basketball.

"Apache always felt he was doing right by the kids and he was helping them go to college," Lewinger said. "He was very consistent with that message and I will always remember that he stuck to what his principles were."

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.