More postseason heartbreak for the Amsterdam girls’ basketball team.
Unable to hit its free throws or contain Bethlehem’s balanced attack, Amsterdam bowed out of the Section II tournament with a shocking 51-45 loss Wednesday night in the Class AA semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College.
Shenendehowa also advanced, with a 45-39 victory over Albany, to set up a meeting of the Suburban Council rivals for the Class AA championship Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at HVCC.
“Going into the game, we felt we could compete with anyone,” Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon said, after the Eagles’ near wire-to-wire win over the state’s top-ranked team. “Our girls played a phenomenal game.”
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And in their third straight semifinal, the unbeaten Lady Rams did not. Though they made a gallant comeback in the third quarter and another in the fourth, their hopes of a first sectional crown vanished as the missed foul shots piled up, and as Meg Olsen and company continued to apply offensive pressure at the other end.
“I’m so proud of this team. They did so many things this program has never done before,” said a dejected Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler. “When they walk out of that locker room, they’ll come out with their heads high.”
Recently elevated to No. 24 in the USA Today rankings, and ranked No. 1 by the state sportswriters through much of the season, Amsterdam had won a school-record 22 straight games before Wednesday’s defeat. The Lady Rams scored only 12 points in the first half in a sign of things to come.
“That first half was not like us. It’s tough when you put yourself in a hole against a good team,” said Duemler, whose Lady Rams missed 10 first-half free throws, and 16 in all on 36 opportunities. “It’s going to catch up with you. It did tonight.”
Taylor Teal put Bethlehem ahead for good on a first-quarter runner, 5-4, and Olsen later supplied the knockout punch with a three-point basket, finishing a quick 6-0 sport with her timely hoist and making it 47-37 with 67 seconds to go.
“That was pretty exciting,” said Olsen, a junior guard who fired in 21 points. “I felt that after that three, if we played good defense, we could hold them off.”
That performance at the line by the Big 10 champs helped the Eagles (21-2) do so all night.
“When you play this many games, you know a team’s strengths and weaknesses. We knew Amsterdam was not a good free-throw shooting team,” said Nealon. “The game plan was to use all of our fouls. It wasn’t pretty, but we were going to make them earn it.”
Amsterdam took a then school-record 21-game winning streak into last year’s semifinals against Colonie, and let a healthy fourth-quarter lead evaporate in a 33-28 loss. Amsterdam lost to Shenendehowa in the 2006 semis, and was also eliminated by Shenendehowa in a 2005 quarterfinal.
“The free throws were a part of it, but we got outplayed, outcoached,” said Duemler. “Bethlehem came here with the idea that they were not going to lose. Every time we made a run, they had an answer. Bethlehem played a good game.”
Rosie McKee delivered eight points for the Eagles, Teal and Kristina Maksuti both added seven and Teal played defensive stopper on Amsterdam scoring leader Megan Gaugler. The Big 10 all-star reached 11 points on a deep three at the
final buzzer, while Ashley Welytok also put in 11, and Meghan Power finished with 13.
“Teal is one of the most athletic players in Section II,” Nealon said. “She was up for the challenge. She did a wonderful job on Gaugler.”
Bethlehem led by as many as 10 points twice in the second quarter, and was still up by that margin,
27-17, after Olsen’s two free throws with 4:48 left in the third. An 8-0 run capped by Michelle Damiano’s two free throws got Amsterdam within two, and the Eagles closed the period with a 10-2 push.
Amsterdam made a final comeback bid in the fourth quarter when Welytok made a foul shot and then converted a three-point play, and Power hit a free throw, to make it 41-37 with 2:47 remaining. Two free throws by Maksuti, another by Olsen and Olsen’s big three sealed the outcome.
“Megan is a clutch player. She had an open look, and shot it without hesitation,” Nealon said. “She’s a big-time player, and that was one of the nails in the coffin.”
Sophomore Marissa Ray came off the bench to score 13 points, her final six in a game-clinching 10-0 surge, as Shenendehowa beat Albany and earned an opportunity to play for its ninth sectional championship and first since 2004.
“After Bethlehem beat Amsterdam, we didn’t talk much about it. We did take about taking care of business, though,” said Shenendehowa coach Ken Strube. “We didn’t want that to happen to us.”
Though Shenendehowa led most of the way, it didn’t put Albany
(17-6) away until the fourth quarter, after Kelsey Greene’s three-pointer pulled the Lady Falcons within
33-27 with 6:20 left.
Ray sandwiched layups around a drive by Carey Turner, and after
Turner sank a free throw, Ray popped a three.
“They made a couple of mistakes with the ball, we hit a few shots and bing, bing, we were up,” said
BETHLEHEM 51, AMSTERDAM 45
Olsen 4-10-21, Murphy 1-2-4, Thompson 1-0-2, McCullough 1-0-2, Teal 3-0-7, Maksuti 2-3-7, McKee 3-2-8. Totals: 15-17-51.
Stahura 1-4-6, Gaugler 3-4-11, Welytok 3-5-11, Rouse 0-2-2, Powers 4-3-13, Zago 0-2-2. Totals: 11-20-45.
Bethlehem 7 13 15 16 — 51
Amsterdam 4 8 15 18 — 45
Three-point goals: Olsen 3, Teal, Gaugler, Powers 2.
SHENENDEHOWA 45, ALBANY 29
Moore 2-1-6, Coore 3-0-8, Beetle-Moorcroft 1-2-5, Hauser 2-2-6, Greene 1-0-3.
Turner 4-2-11, Shea 2-2-6, Goodwin 1-1-3, Woodward 1-2-5, Holland 2-1-5, Ray 6-0-13, Wheeler 1-0-2. Totals: 17-8-45.
Albany 7 9 8 5 — 29
Shenendehowa 13 10 8 14 — 45
Three-point goals: Moore, Coore, Beetle-Moorcroft, Greene, Turner, Ray, Woodward.
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