BETHLEHEM: Defense propels Lady Eagles

A dominant first quarter performance was all that the Bethlehem girls basketball team needed to defeat Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Friday.

The Lady Eagles raced out to a 19-5 lead and never looked back in beating the Lady Spartans 54-40.

I was really pleased with how we played, said Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon. "We played really good defense (in the first quarter), and we disrupted their offense a bit."

Bethlehem (4-4 league, 7-5 overall) set the tone early by forcing BH-BL into a 30-second shot clock violation on the Lady Spartans' first possession. The Lady Eagles either forced a shot clock violation or BH-BL to fire off a desperation shot with one second left three more times in the first quarter.

The defensive effort might have been wasted had Bethlehem not shot the ball well in the opening quarter. Alex McCullough, Meg Olsen and Kiersten Swete all made key shots during the Lady Eagles' 19-point period.

"Our defense created some of our offense," said Nealon. "We had some open looks in transition, and for the first time in a long time, we made them."

BH-BL (2-6, 5-7) played Bethlehem evenly through the final three quarters, but the Lady Spartans never got the deficit below 10 points.

"Burnt Hills settled down and played well, and we took that opportunity to rotate everybody (on the bench) in," said Nealon. "Some of our younger girls got significant playing time, and they all played well."

Olsen and Swete each scored 14 points, and McCullough contributed 10 points for Bethlehem. Georgina Farrow's 11 points paced BH-BL.

Bethlehem's victory over BH-BL helped the Lady Eagles recover from a 39-38 loss to Guilderland last Tuesday. Of Bethlehem's four league losses, three have come against traditional powers " Guilderland, Colonie and Shenendehowa.

"There's only been one game where we weren't in it. That was the Colonie game (Jan. 5)," said Nealon. "Other than that, we've been in every game."

Nealon said he expects a reversal of fortune during the second half of the league season.

"We will win the close ones," he said. "These girls may be young, but they're no longer inexperienced at the varsity level. They've been playing too long for that."

After hosting Saratoga Tuesday, Bethlehem welcomes Columbia to Delmar Friday for a Gold Division game.""

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