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Assuming a Heavy Mantle in a Season of Sorrow

“I’m a pretty laid-back coach,” said Best, 29. “I’m more interested in changing the lives of some of these young women than changing the calls of referees, and through basketball, I think I have been able to do that.”

Best stepped into the coaching spotlight in January after the death of Apache Paschall, who led Nazareth to the Brooklyn/Queens, state and federation championships in 2011. Paschall, who died at 38, apparently of a heart attack, was replaced by Best and another assistant, Ron Kelley.

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For Nazareth, a Loss Not Reflected in the Score

They lost their coach in January and will lose their school in June.

And Thursday night in Brooklyn, the Lady Kingsmen of Nazareth lost their city basketball crown.

“There are a lot of hard tears falling in our locker room right now,” Lauren Best, a Nazareth assistant, said after her team was stunned by Christ the King, 54-53, at Bishop Ford High School. The loss came in the semifinals of the Catholic High School Athletic Association Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls tournament.

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In Season of Loss, Brooklyn’s Nazareth Girls Keep Winning

The Nazareth High School girls basketball team is 14-1 in a season in which it has dealt with the death of its coach and the news that the school will close in June.

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via HoopGurlz: Former Exodus players Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn are taking the lead for raising funds to cover the costs of a funeral service:

Apache Paschall dedicated his life to NYC girls basketball and had a profound effect on many. Please help us raise the money necessary to have a funeral service that reflects our collective love and thanks. In return for your donation, your name will be featured at the service. Any funds remaining after funeral costs are covered will be donated in equal parts to the American Heart Association (www.heart.org), Stand Up to Cancer (www.standup2cancer.org) and Exodus Girl’s Basketball Program (http://www.exodushoops.com/).

Please visit www.facebook.com/honorapache for up to date information on services and to post your messages, memories and photos.

Also from HG, Glenn writes: Apache Paschall: A coach and a friend

Apache Paschall was a close friend of mine.

It may be impossible to explain how difficult it was to write that sentence.

Paschall — the girls’ basketball coach at Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and the Exodus NYC AAU club program — died on Tuesday morning at age 37. Because he was younger than me, it’s still inconceivable and painful to have to write about him in the past tense.

Journalists are not supposed to befriend the people we write about. The unwritten rules are pretty clear about avoiding such conflicts and complications.

But in talking me through my grief over Paschall, who had been battling an aggressive form of skin cancer since a diagnosis in October as well as other serious health issues, my close friend and colleague Chris Hansen made a great point about the world in which we travel. There isn’t yet enough money or notoriety in girls’ basketball to motivate anyone. Those who are involved must do so because of the passion they feel for the sport and its growth. As such, the roles of the people on my beat are not the traditional ones — reporter, coach, parent, player; we all tend to be comrades in arms and friendships like mine and Paschall’s are not just unavoidable, they’re almost fated.

It didn’t seem that way at first.

From Chris: Players, coaches recall Apache Paschall

“I just talked with Bra’Shey Ali and Jennifer O’Neill,” University of Kentucky assistant coach Matt Insell said of his current players who played for Paschall at Nazareth and St. Michael, respectively. “They said they would still be on the streets of New York City if it wasn’t for him.”

Ali’s story might be one of the better examples of Paschall’s passion for the kids with whom he worked. As a senior at St. Michael, Ali verbally committed to West Virginia but never was able to enroll due to admissions issues.

“He got on the phone and begged us to give her a chance,” Insell said. “He wasn’t going to get off of the phone until we gave her a chance. He knew we didn’t have to sign another player in the class, but he was fighting to give her a chance.”

From Matt Ehalt: Paschall bonded with Mary Louis coach

Through suffering, a pair of rival basketball coaches forged a connection.

As Nazareth girls basketball coach Apache Paschall, who died on Tuesday, battled skin cancer this fall and winter, he talked at times with Mary Louis girls basketball coach Joe Lewinger, who has a pair of six-year-old twins that had or currently have cancer. It allowed the two coaches to develop a relationship beyond that of two coaches competing for a title.

“You have a situation where I got to see a different side of him, a more personal side of him and he was very appreciative and I was asking if I can help him or offer advice,” Lewinger said on Tuesday. “Call it whatever you want, there was a different form of a coaching relationship there.”

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Nazareth, Exodus’ Apache Paschall dies

Robert “Apache” Paschall, one of the country’s most successful girls’ basketball coaches, died at a New York hospital on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old coach at Nazareth (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and director of the Exodus NYC AAU club program had been battling an aggressive form of skin cancer since a diagnosis in October. He had also suffered a series of health issues during the past year.

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From HoopGurlz: Girls’ Basketball Stories of the Year

Both tragedy and triumph resonated through the girls’ basketball world in 2011. Here are 10 stories we’ll remember well beyond the New Year.

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Naz coach gives first comments on recruiting investigation in Post Q&A

Apache Paschall has been mostly quiet on the topic of the league investigation looming over his head. The Nazareth coach has been under a strict gag order from his principal to not address the pending decision by the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Eligibility and Infractions Committee.

But Tuesday night, on the eve of what is expected to be his judgment day, Paschall sat down for an exclusive interview with The Post. In this Q&A, the head man of the nationally ranked Lady Kingsmen addresses everything from the investigation to his health to how this season has been the hardest of his decade-long career.

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