Eagles return to their nest

The last time the Bethlehem girls basketball team played a true home game, it was at the tail end of the 2004-05 season.

In between then and last weekend's Bethlehem Tip-off Tournament, the Lady Eagles spent a year playing home games at Sage College of Albany because the high school gym floor had been damaged by a flood. They used the adversity to transform themselves into a strong Suburban Council team.

Bethlehem showed the home fans how far it's come by splitting its two games in the tournament " beating Averill Park 51-25 Friday, and losing to Colonie 44-33 Saturday.

"If this weekend is any indication of how our season is going to go, I think we're going to do just fine," said Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon.

The Lady Eagles wasted little time establishing control over Averill Park, last year's class A Sectional champion. Bethlehem jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the first quarter and used a 22-7 third quarter spurt to seal the victory.

Colonie was another matter. The Lady Raiders opened Saturday's game with a 9-3 run before Bethlehem began chipping away. By halftime, the Lady Eagles trailed 20-19 and forced Colonie to abandon its famed full-court press for a mix of zone and man-to-man defenses.

"They did change defenses on us, and I take it as a compliment," said Nealon.

Bethlehem remained within striking distance until the last four minutes, when Colonie went on a late run to seal the victory.

"They had to play well to beat us, and that's great," said Nealon. "You're never happy with a loss, but I felt we played well."

Sophomore center Alex McCullough played well for Bethlehem in both games, scoring 11 points against Averill Park and Colonie. Sophomore forward Kiersten Swete led the Lady Eagles with 12 points in Friday's victory, and senior forward Leah Gillham had 10 points against Colonie.

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