The Colonie girls basketball team got its first taste of Suburban Council action before the league season officially began.
The Lady Raiders defeated Guilderland and Bethlehem at last weekend's Bethlehem Tip-off Festival two of the better teams in a loaded Suburban Council.
The Suburban Council is a very tough league. You have to play a lot of tough opponents before you hit the playoffs," said coach Karen Bonitatibus. "It doesn't matter about the division (you play in)."
Colonie's division promises to be strong this season. After playing in the Gold Division last year, the Lady Raiders are in the Blue Division with Saratoga, Shaker and Shenendehowa. Shaker is 2-0 after winning its own tournament last weekend, while Shen has three starters back from last year.
Colonie, though, arguably has the most veteran-laden lineup in the league with nine returning seniors " many of whom were part of the 2005 Section II, Class AA championship team. Guards Ola Shajuyigbe and Stephanie Sweeney return to their starting roles, as do forwards Jessica Coles, Logan Pintka and Taylor Amarando.
"There's some good balance of experience on this year's team," said Bonitatibus.
If the way Colonie won its two games at the Bethlehem Tip-off Festival is any indication, that experience will serve the Lady Raiders well this season. In last Friday's 42-35 victory over Guilderland, Colonie used a 16-5 second quarter run to take an eight-point halftime lead and the fended off several Guilderland charges in the second half. The Lady Raiders then played through three tough quarters against Bethlehem before pulling away for a 44-33 victory Saturday.
Bonitatibus credited her team's strong play to their work ethic in practice. "The girls are working really hard. I'm happy with their intensity," she said.
Colonie opened its Suburban Council season Tuesday by hosting Mohonasen. The Lady Raiders visit Saratoga Friday and Guilderland next Tuesday.