Eagles, Warriors hope to turn tables

In the cases of Class AA and Class A, familiarity should breed great basketball games as Section II
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In the cases of Class AA and Class A, familiarity should breed great basketball games as Section II crowns four girls’ champions today at Hudson Valley Community College.

Bethlehem and Mohonasen would like nothing better than to reverse last year’s outcomes, which saw them lose to the same team for a third time as their seasons came to an end.

“At this stage of the season, you’re not going to change anything,” said Bethlehem coach Mark Nealon, whose 17-6 Eagles will meet Shenendehowa for the `AA’ title in the last of today’s four games. “We’re so familiar with each other anyway. It’s become a great rivalry.”

The Class A game is not only a rerun of the 2008 final between Mohonasen and Averill Park, but will be the third time the teams have played each other this season.

“We’re two really good teams that are closely matched,” said first-year Mohonasen coach Paul Brosious. “I’m expecting a great game, like the first two.”

While the Eagles and Mighty Warriors fell at this stage a year ago, both Nealon and Brosious see one appreciable difference in their respective teams.

“I guess the biggest difference right now is we’re the group of seniors, and they are younger,” said Nealon, whose team lost three times to a 2007-08 Shenendehowa team that started five seniors. “It’s little bit of role reversal.

“Not that we’re counting Shen out. [Shenendehowa coach Ken Strube] has done a great job with this group. A lot of teams would be in a rebuilding year, looking forward to next year after losing that many seniors. But I thought all along that they would get to this point.”

“They started really believing in themselves about midway through the season,” said Strube of his team, which starts one senior (Amanda Ferro), two 11th-graders and a pair of sopho-mores. “They’re thrilled at where they are, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go out there and roll over against Bethlehem.”

Bethlehem won the only regular-season meeting this season, a 10-point victory on its own court.

“We jumped on them early and played very well at the start of game, and never gave them a chance to get back in it,” said Nealon of the 53-43 win that saw his club open a 29-18 halftime lead. “Part of it is that the girls are older, more relaxed. They can handle any situation.”

A lot of that maturity and poise comes from the leadership of Megan Olsen, one of four sen­ior starters for the Eagles.

“She’s so well-rounded,” Nealon said of Olsen, who had 19 points as the Eagles came back from an early deficit and beat Schenectady, 55-42, in the semis. “She’s composed. She doesn’t have a real weakness in her game.

“Last year, she played the two guard, which is her more natural position. This year, I put her back at point guard, and she led us in scoring, and some games, she’s been our top rebounder.”

“She’s a great player, but their top five, really down to their seventh player, they are so strong,” said Strube. “And, per player, they’ve probably got an inch or two on us.”

One constant for Shenendehowa this season has been defense.

“We sputter sometimes on the offensive end,” said Strube. “Defense has been our strength all season. Against Bethlehem, we’re not going to be able to take any possessions off. They’re the type of team where you can be comfortably ahead, and three possessions later, you’re in trouble.”

Mohonasen is also trying to reverse last season’s fate. After losing to the Warriors in the Class A title game, the Mighty Warriors won both Suburban Council meetings this season, both by one point.

“Last year, Averill Park blew them out three times,” said Brosious. “This is different. Now, the girls feel they belong where they are, espec­ially with the year they’ve had, winning the Suburban Council.”

Seniors Michelle Aviza and Nicole Adach give the 20-2 Mighty Warriors a solid 1-2 scoring punch. But other players have stepped up during the season.

With Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake shutting down Adach and Aviza in the semis, Lea McClain delivered 18 points in a 42-30 win.

Defensively, the Warriors have to keep Katie Duma under control. An all-tourney pick last year, as were Aviza and Adach, Duma averages over 17 points per game.

“Duma is a great, great player. But they’re a lot more than her,” Brosious pointed out. “They have a lot of really good players, they’re well-coached, and they know what they’re doing. It would be a lot easier if we only had to only worry about Duma.”

Brosious expects another intense game between the SC South Division rivals when they tip off at 1:45.

“At this point, we know each other real well, and I’m not expecing any surprises,” he said. “It’s going to come down to who executes.”

Foothills Council champion Johnstown is also looking for a title, as the 20-3 Lady Bills meet top-seeded Watervliet in the noon Class B game that opens the day.

Johnstown, the third seed, beat Coxsackie-Athens, Cohoes and No.2 seed Hudson Falls to get to the finals. Hillary Kollar has 39 points in the last two games.

Watervliet, the No.1 seed, won the Class CC title last season.

The Class D game, set for 3:30, has top-seeded Germantown meeting No.3 seed Argyle.

All four winners advance to regional play next week.

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