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Bronx-native Cuevas scores 50 points for Nazareth in playoff victory

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Nazareth’s Bianca Cuevas told her teammates and her coach exactly how the fourth quarter was going to go. In the midst of the best game of her career, the McDonald’s All-American guard and Bronx native instructed them to not run any more plays and just let her send them to the Catholic Class AA girls’ basketball state final.

“I was just like, ‘Give me the ball,’” Cuevas said. “I’m going to the basket. That’s it.”

The South Carolina-bound guard kept going and kept scoring.

Cuevas tallied a career-high 50 points to lead the Lady Kingsmen to a thrilling 85–82 victory over rival Christ the King in the semifinals at Holy Trinity on Friday night. Nazareth snapped the Royals’ 18-game winning streak.

“I knew I was going to have a game like this because of the way I was shooting in the layup line,” she said. “I was feeling good.”

Cuevas, who had 24 points at the half, scored 15 in the fourth quarter. She tallied 12 of Nazareth’s first 14 points in the frame. Her others were a 3-point play with 1:24 remaining to put Nazareth, which trailed most of the game, up for good at 84-82.

The 5-foot-6 Cuevas was 13-of-15 from the free throw line and connected on five 3-pointers. Her ability to vary speeds off the dribble and her toughness allowed her to get to the basket at will. She also played forward on defense for most of the game and had a hand in a huge stop late on Christ the King’s Sierra Calhoun, who is also a McDonald’s All-American.

“I said, ‘Ok Bianca we are going to go with you,” Nazareth coach Ron Kelley said. “Then we are going to need everybody to play some defense and get some stops.’

Cuevas went toe-to-toe with Calhoun, who scored just 11 of her 36 points in the second half as Nazareth was able to use junk defenses to keep the ball out of her hands. Still Calhoun scored five straight points to give the Royals (22–4), who led by as much as 12 in the third quarter, a 78-75 lead with 3:16 left in the game.

“Bianca is just crafty with the ball,” Kelley said. “She has the long ball, which is dangerous. Now you have to get out on her. She is quick.”

Cuevas wasn’t able to build off that performance and get her team a state championship. The game against Christ the King took a physical toll on her body, including her tweaking her left knee. She scored just 16 points in a 60-47 loss to St. Anthony’s last Sunday back at Holy Trinity.

“I knew I wasn’t going to play well today,” Cuevas said. “I just felt it the way my body was feeling. I was just tired.”

She had to watch from the bench with foul trouble as the Friars went on a 14-2 run to close the frame and take a 47-36 lead into the fourth quarter. Cuevas felt her presence could have quelled the surge. Despite the defeat she will always have the semifinal performance to be remember for.

“Incredible show today, it’s an incredible show,” Kelley said after the semifinal. “She put on a show today. It was nice to watch.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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