Bethlehem struggles in season opener

Defensively, the Bethlehem girls basketball team looks like the same squad that went to last year's state finals.

Offensively, the Lady Eagles have some work to do.

Bethlehem used a two-three zone defense to stymie Albany's offense, but the Lady Eagles couldn't take advantage at the other end in last Friday's season-opening 28-25 loss to the Lady Falcons.

We know what to do, and we know where we have to be [on the floor]. It's just a matter of doing it, said first-year Bethlehem varsity coach Matthew Bixby.

Anyone watching last Friday's game couldn't help but notice who wasn't on the floor for Bethlehem " namely, the one-two punch of Meg Olsen and Alex McCullough, who graduated after leading the Lady Eagles to last year's Class AA final. Without Olsen's perimeter shooting and McCullough's inside presence, Bethlehem didn't have a steady shooting hand to turn to.

The Lady Eagles could have used that steadying influence in the first half of the Albany game. Bethlehem failed to make a field goal, despite numerous open looks at the basket. Still, the Lady Eagles were down only 13-5 at halftime because their defense forced Albany into poor shots and turnovers.

"I definitely felt like there was a lid on that basket for most of the game," said Bixby, who moved up from the freshman team to coach varsity after Mark Nealon's departure. "I expected some jitters for the first game. I expected us to struggle, but not like that."

Albany opened the third quarter with an 11-5 run sparked by a pair of three-pointers from Fern Bettle-Moorecroft, who finished with a game-high nine points. Bethlehem chipped away at the 14-point deficit with help from senior forward Rosie McKee and senior guard Jaclyn Oskam, but the Lady Eagles couldn't hit the shots they needed down the stretch to pull even.

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