ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been milestone on top of milestone this year for the Albany Academy for Girls basketball team. After claiming the first outright Colonial Council league title and Sec. II, Class B title in school history, the Bears continue their breakout season Friday in the program’s first-ever trip to the semifinal round of the NYSPHSAA Basketball Championships.

Academy has won more games this season (24) than in the four years prior to head coach Bryan Capitula’s arrival ahead of the 2020 season. He instilled a desire in his team to garner Albany Academy for Girls basketball the respect it lacked for so many years. Now, the Bears aren’t just making a statement to the rest of Sec. II, but to the state.

“From the beginning, the coaches and all of us wanted to make a name for ourselves,” said senior guard Stylianna Mantzouris. “(We) wanted to show people that, you know, it’s not just, “Oh, who’s Academy?” We really just wanted to show everyone that we can play, and we are supposed to be here; and that you just have to play and compete against us.”

Capitula inherited a program in 2020 that had gone just 6-14 the year prior. And in his three seasons at the helm, Academy has posted a sterling, 48-7 overall record. “Everyone used to kinda circle Academy on the schedule as a win for the Colonial Council,” he said. “I think at this point we’ve made it so they’re not able to circle a win, which was a big goal of mine: to make sure that we’re competitive. We’re staying in the moment right now in terms of how good we are currently, and I think the kids are…they’re not getting (in) their head(s). They see our record, and they see 24-1; they don’t care. They really don’t care about the record. They just wanna keep going.”

And the Bears will have a chance to keep their historic season going Friday against the No. 1 team in the state in Class B: Putnam Valley. Opening tip-off from Hudson Valley Community College is set for 11:45 a.m., and the winner advances to Saturday’s state championship game.