By Joseph Staszewski
Bob Mackey exited the locker room with his collar open and a look of exhaustion on his face. The Christ the King girls’ basketball coach and his team had no answer for Nazareth star guard Bianca Cuevas in a battle of the McDonald’s All-Americans between Cuevas and the Royals’ Sierra Calhoun.
Cuevas scored a career-high 50 points to end Christ the King’s season with an 85-82 loss in the CHSAA Class AA semifinals at Holy Trinity last Friday night. It was the Royals’ first loss since the Nike Tournament of Champions in December. Calhoun dropped in 36 points, but Cuevas was better on this night than whatever CK did to stop her.
“Kitchen sink?” Mackey said of what he could have done differently against Cuevas. “Not really. I think we could have probably doubled the whole game and left somebody else open and see what they could do, but that’s not the way you play the game.”
Cuevas, who had 24 points at the half, scored 15 in the fourth quarter. Her three-point play with 1:24 remaining put Nazareth, which trailed most of the game, up for good at 83-82.
“I told them to stop calling plays because [the Royals] couldn’t guard me,” Cuevas said.
Christ the King, which led by as much as 12 in the third quarter, had opportunities to win the game. Calhoun, who scored five straight points to give the Royals a 78-75 lead with 3:16 left in the game, tried to put her team up for good. She drove to the basket, but was met by two Nazareth defenders in the paint. There was no foul called on the play.
Cuevas made one-of-two free throws down the other end with eight seconds left to put Nazareth up 84-82. Kollyns Scarbrough had her shot blocked by Yazmine Belk on the Royals’ last significant possession.
“I thought we got a couple of good looks down the stretch,” Mackey said. “We really did. I thought Sierra got killed on that one play, but hey, that’s the way it goes.”
Calhoun connected on six three-pointers in the game and was sensational in the first half. She matched Cuevas nearly shot for shot before the break. Nazareth then mixed up its defense and pressured the ball out of Calhoun’s hands. Mackey said he wanted to get the Duke-bound wing the ball, but her teammates weren’t patient enough to let her get open.
“They changed their defense,” Calhoun said. “They went to a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two. They were just face guarding me the whole time. I don’t think we adjusted well as a team and tried to get me the ball.”
Scarbrough, who was in early foul trouble, scored 13 points for Christ the King, which won both regular season meetings between the two teams and the diocesan title. Sydney Zambrotta added 12 points. Jen Fay, who is headed to Quinnipiac, scored 15 points and the VCU-bound Belk tallied seven points for Nazareth.
Mackey described the locker room filled with eight seniors after the game as “not fun.” The group helped bring two diocesan crowns to Middle Village. They put together their finest season of their high school careers this year, but fell short of booking a trip to the state Federation tournament.
“It was a hard loss,” Calhoun said. “A tough loss.”