New York High School: Lauren Best

Rapid Reax: Nazareth 68, Christ the King 58

February, 21, 2012
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.

Rapid Reax: (1) Nazareth 55, (2) Molloy 46

February, 13, 2012
Nazareth coach Lauren Best saw it as soon as her team walked into the gym at Molloy.

“We were out of it,” the coach said.

That still didn't make a difference, though. No. 1 Nazareth handled No. 2 Molloy, 56-44, Monday at Jack Curran Gymnasium in Queens. Best anticipated her team going through the motions after a tough victory against previously undefeated Manasquan (N.J.) at The Mecca Challenge in the Bronx Sunday.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Neither team shot well early but when Nazareth (14-1) started to find its range, Molloy continued its cold shooting.

The Stanners (15-7) struggled to find any offense outside of Carolyn Gallagher, who scored a game-high 28 points. Nazareth held Molloy to just five field goals across the second and third quarters and held a 38-26 lead headed to the final period.

Nazareth kept Molloy in the game at the free-throw line in the fourth. Molloy went 9-of-13 from the line in the final period. Bianca Cuevas scored 16 points, Sadie Edwards had 12 and Brianna Butler had 10.

TURNING POINT: Nazareth led 16-10 after Butler hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc about a minute into the second quarter. Nazareth looked sluggish, Molloy couldn’t score and the game was getting sloppy before Best called timeout.

“I told them if this game is close we’re going to lose,” Best said.

Best and co-head coach Ron Kelley also implored their team to clamp down on defense. Nazareth started trapping the Molloy guards and pressing the ball and extended the lead to 32-19 with 6:53 left in the third.

“We played a tough game yesterday and I think that to come back and play again tonight was a little tough,” Edwards said. “We came out a little bit lethargic. But we want to be a good team that wins game when we didn’t play well and we didn’t play well at all, individually or as a team, so it just shows that we’re a good team.”

NO FORFEITS FOR FORD OR CK: Nazareth learned earlier in the day that hat Christ the King and Bishop Ford will not have to forfeit games that they were scheduled to play but canceled after the death of Nazareth coach Apache Paschall on Jan. 3. Nazareth wanted to play both games and requested forfeits.

“They didn’t follow the rules,” Best said. “The rules state one thing and they got away with one. They should have gotten the forfeit. We’re a competitive team so we’re going to play but that’s not what the rules state.”

WHITE OUT: Cuevas couldn’t find her jersey before the game so she borrowed Shanice Woodson’s jersey. Problem was, Cuevas wears No. 1 while Woodson, who was sick and did not play, wears No. 11. So Cuevas covered the second number one with white athletic tape to keep her number.

QUOTE OF THE GAME: “I can’t explain it. I think we came out scared. I think we play in games like this where instead of playing to win, we play not to lose.” - Molloy coach Scott Lagas on his team’s offensive struggles.

UP NEXT: Nazareth won’t play again until the games are scheduled against Bishop Ford and Christ the King, which will likely be next week. Molloy plays at Christ the King Friday at 6 p.m.

Nazareth players react to closing

February, 10, 2012
The Nazareth girls basketball team, ranked No. 1 by, has been through a lot this season. Last summer, its former coach, Apache Paschall, was diagnosed with skin cancer. It then had to deal with ineligibility issues for three transfer students, Paschall's death, having games cancelled as a result, and more ineligibility issues for another transfer student.

However, none of that prepared them for the news they got this past Wednesday morning that Nazareth will be closing its doors at the end of the school year.

“With everything that is going on and then for this to happen, this has been a real shock to us,” said Nazareth junior Robyn Camacho. “We had no idea this would happen, nobody did. They just pulled us into the auditorium to make the announcement and tears just started coming down.”

Ever since the passing of their beloved coach, the girls have been saying they are using his legacy as a motivation to go all the way and win another Federation title. Now, they are going to look to his legacy again to deal with this latest setback.

“The main question of the day is what happens next,” Camacho asked. “Where is the team going to go next?”

The girls aren’t wondering as individuals where each one of them is heading. Instead they are all wondering where the team is headed because this program has already been through this once before.

Paschall used to coach his girls team at St. Michael in Manhattan, but when it closed its doors at the end of the 2009-10 school year, he moved the program to Nazareth in Brooklyn and many of his girls followed him. Now, they are looking at that as a reason to think that this program can continue even as Nazareth prepares to close.

“We are all going to try to stay together because it's what Apache would want,” sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas said. “(Co-coaches Ron Kelley and Lauren Best) are here to continue his legacy and they will do their best to keep us together.”

Shanice Woodson is the only girl that left St. Michael that is still on the Nazareth team as the rest graduated last year. She says that she expects the team to be together next year, but thinks that it could be harder than some suspect.

“Doing that the first time was crazy,” Woodson said. “We had to have a lot of patience and faith. It got hard for some people and it wasn't good for certain people. For some Nazareth was really far for them to commute and it's tough finding something that works for everybody.

“I know that when we went through it the last time I was really nervous. The entire thing took a while and you are wondering where they are going to find a school that can take an entire team. It wasn’t an easy thing to go through.”

The idea that it has been done before gives the girls hope that it can be done again. The co-coaches have talked a lot about doing whatever they have to do to fulfill Pashcall's legacy.

Before the girls really start worrying about all of that, they have a bigger goal in mind and that is winning another Federation title. This time it is not only for Paschall, but for Nazareth as well.

“Not that we needed more motivation, but this makes us want to go out and win every game to make a statement,” Woodson said. “This is not just for us or Apache anymore, we have to do this for the school, we have to go out with a bang.”

Principals committee meeting postponed

February, 8, 2012
The principals committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday that was supposed to rule on Nazareth Regional High School's request for forfeits for games with Christ the King and Bishop Ford has been postponed until Monday, according to Bishop Ford Principal Frank V. Brancato.

"One of the principals asked for a change in date," Brancato said. "It was a completely different issue. It had nothing to do with sports."

After Nazareth head coach Apache Paschall died on Jan. 3, Bishop Ford and Christ the King's administrations canceled games scheduled for Jan. 5 and Jan. 7 against the Lady Kingsmen. Bishop Ford thought it was too soon after Paschall's death to play while Christ the King believed that Paschall's funeral was going to be the day of its game.

"We didn't play the game out of respect for their coach's death," CK Principal Peter Mannarino said on Saturday. "As far as we know, our game was scheduled for the day of his funeral. We thought it was inappropriate and disrespectful to play on that day."

Nazareth wanted to play the games out of respect for their coach and did not appreciate having those games canceled. Nazareth beat both teams last week in the first meetings between the schools since the cancellations.

"I think it's disrespectful," Nazareth co-coach Ron Kelley said at the time. "He was our coach, our friend and our confidant, and my mentor and a father figure to our girls here. If we choose to have the game and play the game, then I would think everybody would try to respect our wishes in doing so.

"If God forbid this happened to somebody else, I would say, anything you want us to do, we'll do. That would be my answer. These young ladies have been through a tragedy. I think that what they want to do is what we should be doing."

Nazareth asked the league for Bishop Ford and Christ the King to have to forfeit those games and the Eligibility and Infractions Committee recommended last week that Bishop Ford and Christ the King forfeit those games.

"I think the punishment should fit the crime," Nazareth co-coach Lauren Best said on Saturday. "If it was us, you might not see us for the rest of the season, that's what the rule says."

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Nazareth under investigation again

February, 8, 2012
The controversy surrounding the Nazareth girls basketball team seemingly never ends.

Nazareth athletic director Rochelle Murphy confirmed on Tuesday night a report by the New York Post that her team is being investigated by the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens for allegedly using an ineligible player. Nazareth is ranked No. 1 by

The player, freshman Brittney Jackson, who transferred from Mary Louis Academy to the Brooklyn school in November, played in three games earlier this month against Bishop Ford, Mary Louis Academy and St. Francis Prep.

“They said that (Jackson) was ineligible and that she needed to be deemed eligible before she can play because she was a transfer student,” Murphy said.

If the league determines that Nazareth is guilty of this infraction the rules state that it has to forfeit the three games Jackson played in as well as the remainder of this season, the playoffs, and a minimum of one additional season.

“I'm really not concerned that she is ineligible because we know that she's eligible,” Murphy said. “I'm not the type to look for loopholes or to circumvent. You give me a rulebook and I'm going by the book.”

Jackson, who plays limited minutes, didn’t dress for Tuesday night’s game against Bishop Loughlin as she is sitting out until the league determines her eligibility in a meeting by the CHSAA Eligibility and Infractions committee on Feb. 9.

This is just the latest controversy at Nazareth, who has asked the league for forfeits from Bishop Ford and Christ the King after the schools refused to play games against it following the death of head coach Apache Paschall earlier this season.

At the time, Ford and Christ the King refused to play out of respect and because they said it was too soon after his death. Nazareth saw the games as a way to honor Paschall and were upset that they were not allowed to play. The Principals Committee is meeting Wednesday about the issue.

After dealing with the death of their head coach and the drama that occurred afterward, co-coach Lauren Best thinks that this latest incident is just too much for her players.

“Not only should Brittney be allowed to play, I think that they should leave our girls alone,” Best said. “They've been through enough and they are just fishing now. They are trying to kick us even more when we're down which to me is pathetic because we've already had the ultimate loss.

“We've done everything by the book. This kid didn't come in in January and she never played high school basketball before. She's a freshman and she's only ever played basketball with us.”

When reached for comment, the only thing league president Denise Hillig would say was that Jackson’s eligibility would be ruled on.

Committee recommends CK, Ford forfeit

February, 4, 2012
The CHSAA Eligibility and Infractions Committee has recommended that Bishop Ford and Christ the King should forfeit their schedule games against Nazareth that were canceled following coach Apache Paschall's death, according to Christ the King Principal Peter Mannarino.

The final decision, however, is up to the principal's committee, which will meet on Wednesday. The New York Post first reported the news.

Mannarino, who watched Christ the King beat Cardinal Hayes on Saturday, said he found out on Friday about the infractions committee's recommendation. He said that he did not believe it was a fair recommendation. CK canceled its Jan. 7 against Nazareth.

"We didn't play the game out of respect for their coach's death," Mannarino said. "As far as we know, our game was scheduled for the day of his funeral. We though it was inappropriate and disrespectful to play on that day."

Paschall died on Jan. 3 and his team decided that it wanted to honor its coach by playing its upcoming scheduled game. Bishop Ford's administration backed out of a game on Jan. 5 and Christ the King followed suit for its Jan. 7 game. Nazareth finally got to play both teams this week and beat both in convincing fashion

Nazareth was not happy at the time that the teams backed out on them.

"I think it's disrespectful," Nazareth co-coach Ron Kelley said at the time. "He was our coach, our friend and our confidant, and my mentor and a father figure to our girls here. If we choose to have the game and play the game, then I would think everybody would try to respect our wishes in doing so.

"If God forbid this happened to somebody else, I would say, anything you want us to do, we'll do. That would be my answer. These young ladies have been through a tragedy. I think that what they want to do is what we should be doing."

Lady Kingsmen players Darius Faulk and Bianca Cuevas both did not seem that concerned with whether those teams will have to forfeit the games. Cuevas didn't see why the teams would have to forfeit and Faulk said she wouldn't mind playing those teams again.

"It would be better because we could do it all over again," said Faulk, who did add that she's pleased the teams are being punished because Nazareth wanted to play those games.

Nazareth co-coach Lauren Best said that she believes that everybody should have played her team the first time they were scheduled. While she didn't outright say she agreed with the punishment, she hinted that she believes the punishment would be just.

"I think the punishment should fit the crime," Best said. "If it was us, you might not see us for the rest of the season, that's what the rule says."

CK coach Bob Mackey had no comment about the committee's recommendation.

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Nazareth tops CK amid controversy

February, 4, 2012
It wouldn't be a Nazareth vs. Christ the King game without some controversy.

While No. 1 Nazareth flexed its strength in a 77-47 road win at No. 6 Christ the King in Middle Village on Saturday, the game was overshadowed by the events surrounding and following the contest. This was the first time the two teams played met since Christ the King canceled a January game following Nazareth coach Apache Paschall's death.

After the game, Nazareth took verbal shots at Christ the King star Sierra Calhoun while Christ the King is going to ask the league to review an incident involving the scorer's book. Both teams are also awaiting the final verdict from the league regarding Nazareth's request to have their first scheduled game ruled as a forfeit for Christ the King.

"It's always a rivalry," Nazareth co-coach Lauren Best said. "I felt Apache with me so we're always going to play them hard when we see them. Even if it's 3-on-3 and they got CK jerseys on."

THE HISTORY: When Paschall died on Jan. 3, Nazareth (11-1) wanted to play its scheduled game against Bishop Ford on Jan. 5 and Christ the King (7-10) on Jan. 7. Both teams, though, canceled the games for administrative reasons. Nazareth played Bishop Ford earlier this week and won convincingly and then followed that up with a huge win against CK.

"We were a little bit upset because it wasn't fair and at the end of it, I don't think anyone should decide how we grieve, anyone, coach, anything," Best said. "That's nobody's decision but ours."

THE INSULTS: The game featured two of the top sophomores in the country in Calhoun and Bianca Cuevas. Cuevas stole the show on this day with 36 points, almost scoring at will whether it was on layups, jumpers or 3-point shots. Calhoun, meanwhile, finished with 18 points but only scored two baskets in the game.

Following the game, Nazareth's players took shots at Calhoun, particularly Cuevas. Faulk said that Cuevas is the best, referring to Calhoun, and she felt today showed Cuevas is better.

"I like going against Calhoun, scoring all her free throws," Cuevas said. "She got all that fame over her brother, so everybody think she's the best in the city."

Added Best: "Bianca is always going to be better."

Calhoun and Christ the King coach Bob Mackey did not return any barbs.

"It is what it is, I let my game do the talking, I don't talk trash," Calhoun told "It doesn't surprise me because I know a lot of their character. It is what it is."

Mackey said that you can't compare players since basketball is a team game and he thought his sophomore played a great game.

"I don't take shots at other people's players, take that for what it's worth," Mackey said. "This is the CHSAA, Catholic High School League. In AAU I guess they do that. In AAU, I guess that's how you do things. I don't know. This is the Catholic High School League."

THE BOOK: Mackey said that Nazareth erased a player from the book after the referees signed off on the book. He is going to submit the league's chairperson and let the league look into it. He wasn't exactly sure what could be done but wants to submit it.

Best said she was not aware of what Mackey was talking to. She said every player that was supposed to play in the game on Saturday played against Christ the King.

"They always bring something up to the league about us, what's new," Best said. "That's the Nazareth, Apache Paschall comfort way. We like that. It's in our comfort level."

THE GAME: Nazareth led 15-14 after the first quarter but blew it open in the second quarter with stingy defense and took a 37-23 lead into the half. They led 48-29 after three quarters and pushed the lead to 30 in the final minute for what ended up the final score. Cuevas was the best player on the court with 36 points.

UP NEXT: Nazareth will host Bishop Loughlin on Tuesday while Christ the King will try to rebound from this game when it visits St. Francis Prep.

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Rapid Reaction: (1) Nazareth 82, (2) Ford 39

February, 1, 2012
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.

It showed.

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.

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."

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.

Rapid Reax: (1) Nazareth 73, Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) 61

January, 28, 2012
Nazareth girls didn’t pressure the ball early. They let the opponent hang around. Then the second it became too close, too late in the game, Nazareth slammed Point Pleasant Boro (N.J.) Saturday at the JFK Challenge. It was like coach Apache Paschall never left the bench.

“I always feel like he’s with me, but especially today,” co-head coach Lauren Best said. “This was typical him.”

Best and Ron Kelley manned the bench for Nazareth, playing for the first time at JFK without Paschall, who died earlier this month. The No. 7-ranked team in the country would have made their late coach proud. Paschall would always hold back his team’s press and surprise teams later with his squad’s relentless trapping defense.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Nazareth started slowly, which left the door open for a 3-point-crazy Point Pleasant Boro. Even with that, Nazareth built a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter. The score was tied at 29 with two minutes left in the half and Nazareth led 35-29 at halftime. When the Brooklyn squad couldn’t find easy baskets early, it relied on Brianna Butler, who scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half.

“In the first half they stayed with us because we didn’t play any defense,” Butler said. “We just had to step it up.”

Point Pleasant Boro stayed close early in the third, mostly behind Kelly Hughes, who scored a game-high 23 points. Nazareth never fully showed the full-court pressure that the team is known for but began dialing up man-on-man pressure on the guards and posted a 16-0 run. Nazareth went ahead 57-40 at the start of the fourth quarter and Boro never recovered.

TURNING POINT: The game had the feel that it could be a blowout, even though it was close. Nazareth seemed like it could get anywhere the team wanted offensively. But Lindsey Havens hit a 3-pointer that put Nazareth’s lead at 41-40 with 4:47 left in the third quarter. Then West Virginia-bound senior Darius Faulk drove to the lane for a layup for Nazareth and later forced a turnover and converted another. Her back-to-back layups sparked a 16-0 run. Faulk scored eight of her 12 points during the run. Nazareth outscored Point Pleasant Boro 24-2 over the next eight minutes from the middle of the third and halfway into the final period.

STAR OF THE GAME: Butler’s 16 points kept Nazareth’s offense going in the first half but it was Faulk’s defensive pressure and penetration in the third quarter that ignited the team. Yasmine Belk also added 20 points.

UP NEXT: Nazareth will face DePaul (N.J.) Sunday at 4p.m. in the second day of the JFK Challenge.

Nazareth co-coaches trying to fill void

January, 26, 2012
The intimate moments off the court, those late nights driving back from a game or the nights they would have spent staying up late drinking together are now the hardest parts for Lauren Best and Ron Kelley.

On the court, it actually seems kind of easy. The biggest problem is the immense pressure they each feel as they try to fill the void Apache Paschall has left behind.

The iconic girls basketball coach died earlier this month at the age of 38 of a heart attack while he was undergoing radiation treatment for skin cancer. Now his assistant coaches have taken over his Nazareth team as co-coaches and are trying to live up to lofty expectations.

“I would hate for us not to reach our mission this year and it would be because of us,” Kelley said. “I truly believe that if he was here today he would lead these girls to a championship and we are under a lot of pressure not to let him down.

“It's a rough situation.”

Both coaches say that he has left them with the tools to live up to his legacy. The important thing for them is to put aside their egos and just to try to be themselves. They might also want to up their cell phone plans.

“I never imagined the number of phone calls he took, the stuff he had to do…” Kelley said trailing off as he shook his head. “The girls are always calling. It's not just them either; it’s everybody, parents, coaches, everybody and everybody. We’re talking people across the country.”

Best added, “The call volume must have increased by at least 80 percent.”

All joking aside though, the system that Paschall put in place is the same system that they will continue to use. It was almost like a three-coach system before he left and now it is simply a two-coach system.

“Fortunately we have been working together for a while now and we know each other and what our specific talents are,” Kelley said. “The important thing is putting our egos aside when we need to. We had that same challenge when Apache was here too so it’s nothing new.”

Neither coach wants to change too much of what has made them successful in the past even though sometimes it might be hard to do.

“It's a balance of being yourself and trying to fill his void,” Best said.

“It's hard,” Kelley added. “I’m trying to stay myself, but I'm kind of forced to change too. So many times I find myself asking, 'what would he say right now,' or, 'what would he do in this situation?'”

The biggest obstacle they face is trying to get the girls caught up. Best described the team as in “preseason mode” because they have played in so few games due to Paschall’s illness and his death. That has affected team in terms of being able to gain each other’s trust and mesh.

The Lady Kingsmen are going to make up for that soon though as they play four games in the next five days. Friday they play St. Francis Prep and then they play back-to-back non-league games on Saturday and Sunday before facing a tough league rival in Bishop Ford on Tuesday.

It’s a good thing this stretch is coming up because Best did not like what she saw out of the team on Saturday when Nazareth lost to Riverdale Baptist (Md.) 83-47 in its first game since Paschall’s funeral.

“You can see it in the kids’ faces, mentally they are not there yet,” Best said. “We’ve got to get them there though. They’ve been through a lot, but it’s up to us to fill that void. It’s our responsibility to them and their families that we not let them down.”

Rough week for Nazareth as it waited to play

January, 20, 2012
All they wanted to do was play.

As the Nazareth girls basketball team's players grieved following the death of their head coach, Robert "Apache" Paschall, on Jan. 3, the Lady Kingsmen hoped to return to the court, wanting the chance to honor their coach.

It took eight days and the team saw two games get canceled, but on Jan. 11, Nazareth finally got to play against Molloy, a game the Lady Kingsmen won. It was one of the roughest weeks of the players' lives and one that saw them leaning on each other.

"Losing our coach was a big toll," senior guard Brianna Butler said. "We just had to stay together.

Paschall died in the hospital at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 3 and by 5 p.m. that night, assistants Lauren Best and Ron Kelley, and a group of Nazareth players, both past and present, gathered at the hospital.

Initially, Kelley had decided that the best thing was to cancel a scheduled game against Bishop Ford on Jan. 5. After the grief stricken girls got together, they decided that the best way to honor his memory would be to play the game as scheduled.

“They said, 'Coach no, what are you doing? We want to play Thursday,'” Kelley explained. “They told me that they all got together and talked about it and said that they want to play because Apache would want us to play. So I said fine, I’ll make the phone calls and we'll play.”

That game would never happen though. Ford’s administration decided it wouldn’t let kids make such an important call and postponed the game against their wishes. The next day, Christ the King, also postponed a game scheduled for Jan. 7.

For a group of girls who desperately wanted to play, not because they wanted to, but because they felt compelled to, this was very upsetting.

“It was hard because we all wanted to play and get out there to make Apache happy and the fact that no teams wanted to play us was very upsetting,” Butler said. “We called at least 20 schools to find somebody else to play and couldn’t find one team. It felt like nobody wanted to play us, nobody had the respect to play us.”

So the girls did the only thing they felt like they could do – continue to go to practice everyday and wait and hope that eventually they would play in a game. Even after it was clear they wouldn’t be playing until Jan. 11, the girls kept checking Facebook or hoped for their phones to ring with news that they had found a replacement team to play.

"He used basketball as a sanctuary and for us it is always a comfort to be able to play," Best said. "To be in the gym, to be at practice and to have games, that's a comfort."

Before that game against Molloy, they held a memorial in Paschall’s honor. Principal Providencia Quiles spoke about the trouble Paschall had caused her and the strong relationship that formed out of all of that trouble.

His mother, Elaine Bartlett, spoke about his ability to find something in nothing and his dedication to his girls. His daughter, Nytaea Satara Pascall, fought through tears to say that all she ever wanted to do was to make her father happy.

Finally, Best and Kelley spoke with Nazareth’s current squad lined up behind them. When they were done, each girl picked up a rose and placed it on his usual spot on the team’s bench. Each of them was in tears as they went back to the coaches' office to compose themselves.

After about 10 minutes, Nazareth took to the court and did the only thing they wanted to do for over a week – they played basketball.

"This week has been hard, disappointing, we've all been upset," senior guard Darius Faulk said. "It's been a tough week."

Apache Paschall remembered

January, 14, 2012
Robert “Apache” Paschall was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a son, a brother, a father, a friend, a coach and a leader. Mostly, though, Paschall was in trouble.

“My son did not follow the rules,” Paschall’s mother, Elaine Bartlett, said, “because he knows that the rules were not put into place to help the ones that needed help the most.”

At his funeral on Saturday at the United House of Prayer in Harlem in front of about 250 people, those were the two biggest messages relayed by the nearly dozen speakers -- the trouble Paschall caused and his will to help others. Paschall, 38, died on Jan. 3 of heart failure while battling an aggressive form of skin cancer.

Conflict seemed to follow Paschall around. Even after his death there was controversy over when his Nazareth team should be allowed to return to the court. But more than anything, his life was about helping others.

“That’s how you knew you loved Apache,” said Carlos Semple, an original Exodus member. “He pissed you off, but then the next day you couldn’t wait to see him.”

The funeral itself was light-hearted, as many said Paschall would have liked. Among the speakers were Apache’s mother and his daughter, Nytaea Satara Paschall.

Perhaps the most touching speech came from the mother of his longtime friend and assistant, Lauren Best. Wanda Via spoke about meeting Paschall for the first time and why he never left their lives.

“Apache had four passions in life,” Via said. “Basketball, helping others, his daughter and my cooking.”

Afterwards, everyone talked about how beautiful the funeral was and also how little some of them actually knew about Paschall.

“We call Apache the mystery man,” Ron Kelley, his assistant coach at Nazareth said. “Apache put everybody in a certain circle, but they were separated and only connected by him. So one circle would know a set of stories and another circle would know another. So to hear the stuff that I heard was fun to hear. It was insightful and it was like, ‘Wow, who would have thought.’ ”

Ultimately, though, the biggest thing that mourners, especially the players he coached, took away from the funeral was to carry on Paschall’s legacy. Love him or hate him, his intentions were to help others.

Now that he’s gone, that burden falls upon those left behind.

“All he ever wanted out of me was for me to make it in life,” said Tiffany Jones, who played for Paschall at Nazareth last year. “Now you have no choice but to make it, that's what he wanted. If he was here, he'd be pushing us all to it.

“Now he's not here. He never let us down. We can't let him down.”

Rapid Reaction: Nazareth 77, Molloy 63

January, 11, 2012
It's been two weeks since Nazareth has taken the court, but once the Lady Kingsmen finally did it was like the game didn't even matter.

"This game was so emotional, said Nazareth's Brianna Butler. "Losing our coach was a big toll, but playing, being out here on the court, it was just something that he would have wanted us to do. It didn't feel right not playing this past week. We felt like we were almost letting him down."

The Lady Kingsmen finally took to the court Wednesday night for the first time following the death of their coach Apache Paschall, who was dealing with skin cancer when he passed away of a heart attack on Jan. 3. Since that time they had two games cancelled against their wishes, but they finally got a chance to play Molloy, beating them 77-63 at home, in a game that was both highly emotional and cathartic at the same time.

"We were just upset, all week we wanted to play but they wouldn't let us play," senior guard Darius Faulk said. "It was just very upsetting."

Robert Abruzzese/ESPNNewYork

Before the game there was a ceremony held in Apache's honor. Principal Providencia Quiles introduced his mother, Elaine Bartlett, and his daughter, Nytaea Satava Paschall, who both fought back tears as they spoke to the crowded gym. Then assistant coaches Ron Kelley and Lauren Best addressed the gym with a lineup of crying girls behind them. Afterwards the girls each put a rose on the seat where Apache normally would have sat before going into the coach's office to take a break before starting the game.

"I didn't say much at that time," Kelley explained. "I was crying myself so I didn't say too much. I just said, 'ladies, let it all out. Let it out now.' After about 10 minutes I said, 'let's go, let's get back to business,' and that's exactly what they did."

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The game was like an afterthought. Everybody involved was just relieved that they finally got a chance to get out on the court again and start to put this behind them so it didn't matter if they won or lost.

When the game started things were a little sloppy. In the first two minutes there were turnovers all over the court, bad shots, missed passes. Molloy struck first going up 5-0 on a pair of baskets by Amani Tatum and Kamille Ejerta, two girls who played for Apache's Exodus AAU squad.

It didn't take long until Nazareth's immense talent took over though. Jazmine Belk hit a layup that eased the tension and started the ball rolling. Then Bianca Cuevas started raining three's as the Lady Kingsmen went on an 11-0 run that put them up 22-13 after the first quarter.

There was more tension in the second quarter as the girls struggled through their emotions to find consistency. They found it in the second half though as Nazareth started the third quarter out with a strong 12-2 run that gave them a commanding 52-33 lead that they would never relinquish.

Robert Abruzzese/ESPNNewYork
Bianca Cuevas

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Bianca Cuevas was often the center of Apache's attention for both good and bad reasons. Apache mentored her because of her immense talent, but he also had to spend time with her because of both on and off the court shenanigans she gets herself into. She was also the first one to break down in their first practice the Wednesday following his death.

So it was almost appropriate that the sophomore took over the game with her long distance three-point shots that would make an NBA player jealous. She led the game with 28 points and always was there with a big basket anytime it looked like Nazareth had fallen into the trap of just going through the emotions. Without her stellar play it is hard to imagine Nazareth winning this game.

UP NEXT: Nazareth will head to Bishop Ford this weekend as it will participate in the Rose Classic against St. Anthony's on Sunday. Molloy will also take part in the Rose Classic when it takes on Bowie (Md.) on Saturday afternoon.

Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Nazareth 45, No. 1 Christ the King 33

February, 23, 2011
NEW YORK - Until February, Nazareth was home of the top girls basketball team in New York City. That’s when they were knocked off by Christ the King on their home court.

Wednesday was supposed to be the day the Lady Kingsmen got their revenge. The one problem is that they entered the game without their head coach Apache Paschall, who was suspended by the schools' principal for talking about the ongoing investigation into whether he illegally recruited players.

Fortunately for Nazareth, Christ the King was also shorthanded as they were missing its star and McDonald All-American Bria Smith.

Without Smith to lead it, No. 1 Christ the King (17-7) didn’t put up much of an effort offensively as No. 2 Nazareth (22-3) beat it 45-33 at St. Francis Prep on Wednesday. Nazareth took home the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I title. It was the first time since 1983 that Christ the King did not take home the division title.

“Our kids play against McDonalds All-Americans all year,” Nazareth’s interim head coach Lauren Best said. “We were prepared whether she was there or not.”

“It's a big rivalry,” Nazareth’s Taylor Ford said. “Everytime we beat them it's a big win. This wasn't a big, big game, but it was a game that sets the tone for the playoffs.”

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: It was a strong defensive game in the first half as Nazareth barely lead after the first quarter, 9-7. The second quarter continued the focus on defense, but it was the first time in the game that Smith’s absence really showed as Christ the King fell behind 22-13 at the half because it failed to hit open shots.

The third quarter was the crucial stretch. Christ the King started pressing offensively to score a basket and that frustration carried over to the defense as well. It culminated in a 18-0 run by Nazareth that left it with a 37-17 lead by the end of the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Christ the King finally woke up thanks to bench pieces Amanni Fernandez, who scored four points in the quarter. Nia Oden was also a big contributor in a 8-0 run for the Royals that helped make it close.

Unfortunately, it was too late for the Royals as Nazareth never let them get closer than 11 points within the lead.

TURNING POINT: Nazareth already had a lead going into the third quarter, but it was Ford and Tiffany Jones who started clicking that really broke the lead open. The pair played well together and combined for seven points in the quarter alone and also contributed to holding Christ the King to just four points.

”People forget they've been playing together since they were in the 8th grade,” said Best. “So when they get going they are unstoppable.”

By the time Nazareth stretched its lead to 24 points Christ the King, head coach Bob Mackey took out his regulars Rayne Connell and Lauren Nuss, who were struggling, and the game was over.

STAR OF THE GAME: Ford not only lead Nazareth offensively during its 18-0 run that took Christ the King out of the game, she also got the Royals started with a big first quarter. By setting the tone and leading the way throughout the game, she is the easy choice for star of the game.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Smith is a star player in the league, but typically Christ the King isn’t a one-player show. Last time these two teams faced each other Smith had 17 points, but Nuss had 19. Nuss went scoreless in this game and Connell, who lead the offense without Smith, didn’t score at all until the fourth quarter.

QUOTE OF THE GAME: “Everybody wants to talk about Bria missing,” Ford said, “but I don't think that was the difference. Defense was the difference. If we played that defense in the last game, we would have won it no matter what.”

ON THE ABSENCES: It’s safe to say that the absences of both Paschall and Smith were huge for their respective teams.

Paschall was out due to a suspension he received from the principal of Nazareth for violating a gag order she placed on him to not speak to the press about recent recruitment issues that the league nearly suspended him for. He will miss at least one more game before returning.

Smith was out for a knee injury she sustained back on Feb. 4 against Nazareth that she reinjured in a game against Loughlin last week. She will see her Dr. on Monday for clearance to begin playing again.

UP NEXT: Both teams have a few days off before they begin the Brooklyn/Queens Division I playoffs.