Butler inspires Nazareth to semifinal victory
Brianna Butler wasn’t on the court the last time Nazareth played rival Christ the King. She instead sat and watched as the Lady Royals pulled off the mild upset in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan semifinals.
With a berth in Saturday’s CHSAA Class AA state championship on the line, the McDonald’s All-American put the pain of her injured left knee, which forced her to miss two late-season games, behind her.
“Apache would have wanted me to play,” she said of Nazareth coach Apache Paschall, who died in January. “He probably would have called me a scrub if I didn’t play. It kind of gave me incentive to come back and play.”
Even at what Butler estimates “75-80 percent healthy,” the Syracuse-bound senior was the best player on the court, helping lead Nazareth to a 52-47 victory over Christ the King in the CHSAA ‘AA’ state semifinals at Archbishop Molloy.
“It was hard sitting out of the Christ the King games,” Butler said. “It feels good to be back playing. I try not to think about [the pain] and just go out and play.”
Instead the versatile Butler inflicted pain on the Lady Royals to the tune of a game-high 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a hard fought, but sloppy game.
“She gives us more options,” point guard Bianca Cuevas said. “Everyone on this team is capable of scoring.”
And Butler provided an emotional lift to Nazareth Friday night.
“I think all my girls are inspirations to each other,” co-coach Lauren Best said. “They all have their own things going on, but they feed off of each other. They live for each other.”
Cuevas had 13 points and Sadie Edwards added 10 for Nazareth (17-3), ranked No. 3 in New York by MSG Varsity. The Lady Kingsmen led wire-to-wire, but didn’t start to pull away until the third quarter when they opened up an 18-point lead on a Cuevas layup.
Nazareth outscored No. 1 Christ the King (15-15), 18-3, in the third quarter.
Led by Kollyns Scarbrough and Penn-bound Rayne Connell, who had 11 points apiece, and Sierra Calhoun, who added 10 points, the Royals mounted a fourth-quarter comeback. However, Christ the King was done in by turnovers and missed layups.
While Nazareth had its share of turnovers and free throws that went awry late, the Lady Kingsmen survived a scare and advances to Saturday’s Class AA state final at Christ the King.
Nazareth takes on a Moore Catholic team that has upset Bishop Ford and Archbishop Molloy en route to the title game.
“We’re just going to play hard against them and close out on their shooters because they’ve only got shooters,” Cuevas said.
It could be a special day for the Brooklyn school, which announced it would close in June. The boys basketball team will take on St. Mary’s Lancaster in the CHSAA Class B state final at Fordham University in the afternoon.
It’s just part of the Lady Kingsmen’s motivation Saturday.
“We don’t just want to do it for the school,” Cuevas said. “We want to do it for us, we want to do it for the seniors who never got a championship before and we want to do it for our coach.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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