Hernandez scores 22 points to lead Bethlehem Catholic girls basketball past Nazareth

Bethlehem’s Catholic guard Cici Hernandez wasted no time getting on the board Monday night against Nazareth.

Hernandez scored 15 seconds into the game and that was just a sign of things to come in the regular season finale for both teams.

The junior scored 17 points in the first half, including 12 in the second quarter.

Hernandez finished with 22 points to lead the Golden Hawks to a 54-36 road win over Nazareth.

“She’s the last straw, if you will,” Bethlehem Catholic coach Jose Medina said of Hernandez. “She’d be the first to tell you, her teammates did a great job making the extra pass. She is a competitor. She is our leader. She and she did a great job tonight staying warm and just running the offense.”

“We put up the right plays,” Hernandez said. “The coaches were very good tonight. I just passed. I was in the right place at the right time.”

It was the 200th win of Medina’s career.

Monday night’s victory also avenged a 49-44 home loss for the Golden Hawks against Nazareth on January 10.

“We definitely took it personally this time,” Hernandez said. “We had a couple of games that we didn’t play to our potential. I feel like tonight we held ourselves accountable and played our game. We play together. That was the big thing. We fell apart in the first game. I feel like as long as we play together, as long as we play our game, we’ll be fine.”

Bethlehem Catholic opened up a 9-0 lead Monday night when Hernandez hit a 3-pointer with 4:59 remaining in the first quarter.

Nazareth junior Jenna Martucci recorded a steal and layup to cut the Golden Hawks’ lead to 9-5 with 1:37 left in the first quarter. That was the closest the Blue Eagles got to Bethlehem Catholic the rest of the night.

Hernandez hit a 3-pointer to start the second quarter, giving the Golden Hawks a 12-5 lead with 7:23 remaining on the clock. An outside jumper from the junior extended the Bethlehem Catholic lead to seven points with 5:50 remaining in the first half.

After Blue Eagles junior Sam Baker made a 3-pointer to cut the team’s deficit to 22-12 with 2:20 remaining in the second quarter, the Golden Hawks responded with the last seven points of the half. Youth guard Ella Bincarosky pushed Bethlehem Catholic’s lead to 12 points when she scored with 1:52 left. Then, 49 seconds later, Hernández hit his third 3-pointer of the night to make it 27-12. Hernandez followed his own miss and converted a buzzer-beater to extend the halftime lead to 17 points.

Hernández was left out of the scorebook in the third quarter. But the guard found his shooting touch again in the final eight minutes when he scored five points. He made his fourth and final 3-pointer of the game with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Golden Hawks a 49-31 lead.

Nazareth was led by sophomore guard Renee Wells and senior guard Addison Kea, who each scored eight points on the night.

Martucci scored seven points for the Blue Eagles, who finished the regular season with a record of 12-10 overall and 10-6 in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.

“Give them credit. They executed and we didn’t,” Nazareth coach Rich Bickert said. “Down there (in the first meeting), it was the complete opposite. We execute, they don’t. If Hernández gets going, it’s tough.”

It looks like Nazareth will be the sixth or seventh seed in the EPC tournament and will play away from home in the quarterfinals on Friday night.

Junior forward Akasha Santos scored 10 points for Bethlehem Catholic, which finished the regular season with a 14-8 overall record and an 11-5 EPC mark.

“The main difference was the rebounding of the ball,” Santos said of comparing Monday night’s game to the teams’ first meeting. “The first time we played against them, we didn’t rebound as well as today, we all rebounded as a team. It was not just one person. We all made the effort to recover. And speaking in defense. Our communication was tonight.

Senior forward Kendra Rigo and Bincarosky each added eight points for the Golden Hawks, who have won three of their last four games.

“We are playing well. We are playing together,” Rigo said. “We are doing the extra pass. We are bouncing. We’re just playing as a team. Together.”

It looks like Bethlehem Catholic will be the No. 5 seed and play fourth seed Parkland on Friday night in the EPC quarterfinals. The Golden Hawks are the five-time defending tournament champions.

“We are playing well,” Medina said. “This is the time of the year, we always say that we want to start with the end in mind. We’re going with a tough non-conference schedule to really prepare for this time of year. Our girls are working hard. They are practicing hard. They are pushing each other. And that’s what you want this time of year. All credit goes to them. We will continue to work hard and see who we have on Friday.”

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Josh Folck can be reached at [email protected].