For a good portion of the season, it appeared the St. John the Baptist girls basketball team might not even qualify for the state CHSAA Class AA Tournament. The Cougars finished third in the NSCHSAA, but by making the final they qualified.
SJB showed tremendous improvement since the beginning of the season, but received a tough draw Wednesday night against nationally ranked Nazareth and had its season come to an end with a 67-41 loss in the state CHSAA Class AA semifinals at St. Francis Prep.
SJB (17-11) almost upset nationally ranked St. Anthony's in the CHSAA final Sunday in a 51-48 loss. This time, the Cougars had a much tougher time against a Nazareth team that is loaded with Division I talent.
"We spent everything against St. Anthony's," SJB coach Ted Oberg said. "We needed to execute flawlessly in this game and we didn't. We came out flat and that is as good of a team as they ever had."
Sadie Edwards and Bianca Cuevas, one of the top sophomores in the country, each scored 19 points for Nazareth. Aliyah Smith's 14 points led SJB.
Nazareth (16-3), which is ranked No. 19 in the country by USA Today and is the defending Federation Class AA champion, will play Christ the King in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Molloy in Queens.
Nazareth has endured a traumatic season off the court. Coach Apache Paschall died of a heart attack in early January after battling skin cancer and the Brooklyn school is closing in June because of low enrollment.
The game was close until late in the first quarter when Nazareth got steal after steal. Cuevas scored off a steal from Darius Faulk to ignite a 15-2 run, with 12 of the points coming off steals.
SJB didn't get a field goal in the second quarter until Anastasia Williams scored with 1:05 left in the half. Cuevas scored 10 points in the third quarter to extend the lead to 47-25.
"We don't have depth," Oberg said. "Our starters play 32 minutes. That team has a lot of weapons."