In a game where seniors dominated, a sophomore came to the Bethlehem girls basketball team’s rescue.
Bridget Murphy’s layup with less than a minute remaining in regulation helped the Lady Eagles defeat Mohonasen 45-42 in Friday’s Suburban Council South Division game in Delmar.
Lea McClain’s steal and layup capped a 7-0 Mohonasen run that tied the score at 42. But on Bethlehem’s ensuing possession, Murphy took the ball along the baseline and made her shot to put the Lady Eagles (9-3 league, 11-3 overall) ahead to stay.
That was run exactly as we designed it, said Bethlehem coach Matthew Bixby. `The thing with Bridget is that she’s a shooter … and she’s big time. She makes the shots when we need them.`
`Somebody let her by, and she made the shot,` said Mohonasen coach Paul Brosious.
Mohonasen (6-6, 7-7) looked like it was going to run away with the game after it took a 19-4 lead in the first quarter. McClain had a big hand in that opening spurt, as she scored 12 of her game-high 24 points.
Bethlehem began to recover when Murphy hit a three-point shot with less than five seconds left in the first quarter. That shot sparked a 9-0 Lady Eagle run that trimmed Mohonasen’s lead to 19-13.
`I can’t repeat everything I was thinking [when Bethlehem was down 19-4], but obviously I was thinking that we had to take it one play at a time,` said Bixby. `I knew if we played one play at a time, we could come back.`
Mohonasen extended its advantage to 27-18 at halftime, but Bethlehem opened the third quarter on a 15-3 run — capped by a Jaci Oskam three-pointer — to grab its first lead of the game at 33-30.
The key for Bethlehem’s comeback was stopping McClain. After the senior guard torched the Lady Eagles’ defense for 17 points in the first half, Bethlehem limited her to three points in the third quarter.
`Basically, we changed our defensive sets every two or three minutes to give her something new to look at,` said Bixby.
McClain continued to struggle in the fourth quarter. Even free throws — normally, a shot McClain makes — became a problem as she missed four foul shots in a row at one point.
`She missed some shots that she made in the first quarter,` said Brosious. `But that’s how we’ve been [in general] all year. We’ve been streaky.`
McClain pulled it together late in the fourth quarter. She drained a pair of free throws and then scored off a steal to turn a 42-38 deficit into an even game again.
Once Murphy made her shot, though, Bethlehem’s defense took over, as the Lady Eagles denied Mohonasen on a couple of occasions to seal the victory.
Oskam scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, while Murphy contributed 11 points for Bethlehem, which remained 1 1/2 games behind first-place Colonie in the South Division standings.
Mallory Kuchis chipped in 12 points to complement McClain’s efforts for Mohonasen, which has lost four of its last five games.
`There is a lot of good things going on for us,` said Brosious. `I just feel that we have one more step to go.`
Bethlehem can take a step closer to the South Division lead Tuesday when it hosts Colonie (11-2, 13-2). The Garnet Raiders defeated the Lady Eagles 60-32 when they met Dec. 14.
`We have to play our game,` said Bixby. `When we played them the first time, we tried to play Colonie’s game and that didn’t work out for us. If we go out and play our game, that will work for us.`
Mohonasen returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Averill Park.“
Associate editor/sports editor