The first time Bethlehem met Shenendehowa this girls basketball season, the Plainsmen rallied from a big deficit to defeat the Eagles by four points.
A similar scenario developed in Saturday's Section II, Class AA quarterfinal game between the two Suburban Council teams, only this time, Bethlehem hung on for a 49-42 victory over Shen in Clifton Park.
The Eagles (14-8) built a 15-point halftime lead and fended off a late Shen rally to advance to their first Sectional semifinal appearance since winning the 2003 class A title the year before class AA was added.
They played well from the outset," said Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon. "They may not have finished as strong as they would have liked, but they played well."
"We dug ourselves quite a hole, and the big reason was Bethlehem. They played a tremendous first half," said Shen coach Ken Strube.
After building a 12-9 lead in the first quarter, Bethlehem took off in the second quarter. Three-point plays by Christine Murphy and Kiersten Swete sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Eagles a 28-13 halftime lead.
"In our locker room (before the game), we did our cheers, and we came out strong," said Alex McCullough, who scored six points in the first half.
Shen (17-4) didn't help itself in the second quarter. The Plainsmen tried matching Bethlehem by taking several driving layup attempts, but their shots didn't fall. By period's end, the only points Shen scored were from the free throw line, where it went 4-for-6.
"You know those practice lids that you use to practice rebounds? It's almost like they didn't take them off," said Strube.
Strube shook things up in the third quarter by putting five reserves in to start the period. Though it didn't help the Plainsmen in the scoring column, the move boosted Shen's defense, as the reserves forced several Bethlehem turnovers in the first three minutes.