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Copiague ends Bethlehem's playoff run in state finals

Copiague once again stood in the way of Bethlehem's title run, and once again the Copiague Eagles flew higher.

In a rematch of the 2003 girls Class A state final, Copiague fended off a Bethlehem surge in the second half and pulled away for a 74-58 victory in last Saturday's Class AA championship game at Hudson Valley Community College.

Copiague's full court pressure defense gave Bethlehem's fits all night, and the speed of the Copiague Lady Eagles seemed to surprise Bethlehem.

Copiague made us play their game, said Bethlehem head coach Mark Nealon.

Bethlehem didn't fall without a fight. Senior center Alex McCullough gave Bethlehem a spark, scoring 10 of her 21 points to start the third quarter. Senior guard Meg Olsen also came up with several clutch baskets to help the Lady Eagles rally from a 19-point deficit to get within six points early in the fourth quarter.

There was nothing that Bethlehem could do about Copiague's dynamic duo of Ieasia Walker and Gabrielle Gibson, though. Walker and Gibson each dropped 28 points to help the Suffolk County champs pull out the win.

With a minute and a half left in the game coach Mark Nealon took out his four senior starters " Olsen, McCullough, Taylor Teal and Caitlin Dole " so that they could receive the applause that they deserved. As they sat on the bench for the closing moments of the game, it was clear that they could not help but think back at the season that was.

"It's tough to think about it right after a loss, but it was a great year," said Olsen.

Although the Bethlehem players were disappointed after Saturday's game, the state tournament was not all bad. The Eagles defeated the No. 2-ranked team in New York, the Kingston Tigers, 43-39 in Friday's semifinals.

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