For one team, a perfect season continues. For the other, the next step is there for the taking.
Suburban Council champion Bethlehem beat defending Section II champion Colonie, 44-40, in one girls’ Class AA basketball semifinal Wednesday night at Hudson Valley Community College. Big 10 champion Albany topped Shaker, 47-41, in the other semi.
The 20-0 Lady Eagles and 19-1 Lady Falcons will meet for the title Monday at 6 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany.
Sophomore Gabby Giacone scored 16 points, classmate Kaylee Rickert added 12 and senior Bridget Murphy got another 10 as Bethlehem held off Colonie and ended the stellar high school career of Sydnie Rosales, who scored 15 points in her final varsity contest.
Bethlehem, which started three 10th-graders and a freshman, converted free throws down the stretch as it got a chance for its first title since 2009.
“It’s tremendous. I’m so proud of these girls,” said Bethlehem coach Matthew Bixby, “not only to win this game, but to be able to defeat the defending sectional champions who have so much experience on this floor. They came to play. They knew how to play to beat us. For us to be able to pull this out, I’m tremendously proud.”
Bethlehem led, 24-22, at the half on a Murphy basket, and took a 33-28 lead into the final eight minutes.
Rosales, who seemed determined to play at least one more game, got her team into a 35-35 tie with the final three-pointer of her career. Bethlehem, which had trouble from the line all night, made four of seven foul shots in the final minute.
“It took guts,” said Bixby. “And it took us being able to do some things we didn’t do very well in the first three quarters, make free throws, get out and run on them. We did not do that early. They focused. They settled down.”
Senior Jaclyn Welch, who kept Colonie in the game with a 11 points in the first half, finished with 13.
“In those last five minutes when we were tied, we came together,” said Murphy. “That was the most important thing. We didn’t crumble.”
“This was a new experience for us, and what I learned was that this not too big an experience for us,” Bixby said.”
“If it’s going to end, you want to go out fighting,” said Colonie coach Heather Fiore, whose team finished 15-5, three of those losses to Bethlehem and one to Shaker. “I can’t fault the effort they made. What you want is to have a chance to win it at the end of the game. We had that opportunity. We had shots we wanted, they didn’t go in.”
Cyla Wilson’s only basket of the first half put Albany up, 24-22, at the half in the second game.
Senior Emia Willingham-Hurst took control in the second half, getting 10 of her team-high 21 points in the final 16 minutes, as the 2012 runner-up got another chance at the school’s first title since back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.
Willingham-Hurst broke a 27-27 tie with a driving basket midway through the third, highlighting an 8-1 run that saw her score another basket, and find both Ayana Hunter and Ariel Greer cutting underneath for baskets.
Shaker, which finished 19-2, tied the game at 37-37 on two free throws by Madison Rowland (25 points), but Wilingham-Hurst, who missed the semifinal because she was on a school trip to France, put her team ahead for good with two free throws, and fittingly, scored the game’s final two points.
“We felt we had it out and get the lead because it was close the whole game,” said Willingham-Hurst, who also had 12 rebounds, eight off the offensive glass. “It was a little frustrating, but we still were playing good defense.
“I feel if I have to do it, I have to do it. I had to do whatever I had to do to help my teammates win the game.”
“She’s good. I was happy to have her back,” said first-year Albany coach Decky Wilson of his standout senior. “She was still a little sluggish after missing a few practices, but her she did a lot of hard work the past few days.
“I still want the ball in her hands at the end of the game.”
RENSSELAER — Top-seed Watervliet topped No. 13 Ichabod Crane, 51-23, with 24 points from Ailayia Demand. She had 16 in the first half as the Cannoneers (19-2) rolled to a 32-11 lead at the break.
The Riders (10-12) got seven points from Danielle Ooms.
In Saturday’s championship game, Watervliet will face No. 3 Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, which upset No. 2 Tamarac, 47-44.
BETHLEHEM 44, COLONIE 40
Welch 6-0-13, Rosales 5-3-15, Riddick 2-0-4, Blum 0-0-0, Dyer 1-4-6, Lane 1-0-2. Totals: 15-7-40.
Rickert 3-6-12, J;.Giacone 2-0-5, G.Giacone 6-4-16, Murphy 4-2-10, O’Donnell 0-1-1. Totals: 15-13-44.
Colonie 15 7 6 12 — 40
Bethlehem 12 12 9 14 — 47
Three-point goals: Welch, Rosales 2, J.Giacone.
ALBANY 47, SHAKER 41
Gambles 1-0-2, Barra 3-2-10, Mad. Rowland 6-12-25, VanAmerongen 0-0-0, Holland 0-0-0, Mer. Rowland 1-2-4. Totals: 11-16-40.
Canty 1-3-5, Waterson 0-0-0, Willingham-Hurst 8-5-21, Chandler 2-1-5, Hunter 2-1-5, Greer 4-1-9, Wilson 1-0-2. Totals: 18-11-47.
Shaker 11 11 6 13 — 41
Albany 8 16 11 12 — 47
Three-point goals: Barra 2, Mad. Rowland.
WATERVLIET 51, ICHABOD CRANE 23
Haywood 0-4-4, Volksmann 1-0-3, Farrell 2-0-4, Freeman 1-0-2, Ooms 2-2-7, Niemeyer 1-0-2, Grace 0-1-1. Totals: 7-7-23.
Demand 7-7-24, Dugan 1-0-3, Dockstader 0-1-1, Sziller 2-0-5, Clickner 1-2-4, Durocher 1-0-2, Shufelt 1-0-2, Clough 1-0-2, DeGuire 3-2-8. Totals: 17-12-51.
Ichabod Crane 4 7 3 9 — 23
Watervliet 17 15 12 7 — 51
Three-point goals: Volksmann, Ooms, Demand 3, Dugan, Sziller.