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All-American Smith lifts CK over Nazareth

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Christ the King wasn’t giving its division up without a fight.

Nazareth beat the defending state Federation Class AA champion in Middle Village in November. It was just CK’s third regular-season league loss in 11 years. The visiting Royals returned the favor with a 74-57 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball win Saturday afternoon. The loss snaps Naz’s 11-game win streak.

“We had this game circled forever,” CK guard Lauren Nuss said. “Once the [first] game was over, we knew we had to come back and beat them.”

Virginia-bound guard Bria Smith paced CK with 31 points and will be officially named to the McDonald’s All-American team next week, sources told the New York Post. Nuss netted 19 points, including five three-pointers. Her biggest trey came after the Lady Kingsmen, ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today, got as close as 57-53 on two Darius Faulk free throws with 3:41 left in the game. Smith fed the junior guard in the right corner for a basket that put the Royals (13-5, 9-1) up 62-53 with 2:41 left in the game.

Nia Oden added 12 points. Bianca Cuevas led Nazareth, which won the first meeting 51-47, with 11 points and Taylor Ford had 10.

“Bria took over on the floor,” Christ the King Coach Bob Mackey said.

Smith, who said she could not comment on her All-American selection, was sensational breaking Nazareth’s signature pressure, something that gave CK trouble in the teams’ earlier meeting. She many times split defenders and went right back at it after being repeatedly knocked to the floor during an extremely physical contest. The McDonald’s game will be played March 30 at the United Center in Chicago.

The Royals built a 32-15 lead with 3:37 left in the second quarter on the back of a wild 30-7 run after Faulk left the game with two early fouls. Smith banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter. After consecutive Nuss three-pointers, Smith scored off a feed from Sierra Calhoun and converted an acrobatic layup to finish the spurt.

“She is their centerpiece a lot of the times,” Smith said of Faulk. “She keeps them together. With her out of the game it kind of discombobulated them.”

The Lady Kingsmen (18-3, 10-1) responded with a 9-0 run, mostly on free throws, to pull within 35-28 at the half. Nazareth got as close as six twice in the third, but Smith fed Nuss for an easy layup to end the quarter that put CK up 51-43. Nazareth continued to chip away. A Ford layup and two Faulk free throws got their team within four, but Smith made two free throws, Nuss hit a back-breaking 3 and Oden added a free throw line jumper to put the game away.

“That was fun,” Mackey said of the last 30 seconds. “That was good. I enjoyed that.”

The win gives the Royals momentum heading into the season’s home stretch with the playoffs and the possibility of a few more meetings with the Lady Kingsmen down the road — when titles are decided.

“To have this over and have this tied it gives us more confidence,” Smith said. “They’re not the better team it feels like.”

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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