The Bethlehem girls basketball team learned something from playing against two of New York's elite teams in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.
The Lady Eagles (3-1 league, 5-3 overall) put that lesson to good use, as they held on to defeat Averill Park 42-40 in Saturday's Suburban Council South Division game.
Free throws were a big factor in the game. Bethlehem made 17 of its 22 foul shots, while Averill Park (3-1, 7-1) hit 18 of its 29 free throws.
We got in foul trouble early on," said Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon. "But we switched to a zone (defense), and that bothered Averill Park."
Meg Olsen scored 15 points " more than half of which came from the free throw line " to lead Bethlehem. Alex McCullough contributed six points, while Jaci Oskam and Paula Gadomski each added five points.
"Paula came in and did a great job for us," said Nealon. "She hadn't played much all year, and she was able to come in and score five points in the fourth quarter."
Katie Duma had 13 points for Averill Park, which entered the game ranked fifth among all Class A teams in New York.
Bethlehem was coming off a pair of losses against some tough competition at the Shenendehowa Holiday Tournament the previous weekend. The Lady Eagles started with an 82-60 loss to perennial New York City power Christ the King and finished with a 49-40 setback against Rush-Henrietta, which has been to the last three state public school tournaments.
"We made a couple of nice runs at Christ the King, and when it came to Rush-Henrietta, we were just too tired," said Nealon.
Both games were determined by big runs by Bethlehem's opponents. Christ the King opened with a 27-point first quarter to put the Lady Eagles in a double-digit hole, and Rush-Henrietta used a 20-point second quarter to pull away from Bethlehem.
"The speed of the game is different, and the defensive pressure was tremendous," said Nealon.
Olsen scored 16 points against Christ the King and 13 points against Rush-Henrietta to lead the Lady Eagles. McCullough netted 14 points against Christ the King and 13 points against Rush-Henrietta.
Bethlehem returned to action Tuesday when it hosted Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in a Suburban Council cross-divisional game. The Lady Eagles' next South Division game is Friday at home against Guilderland.""