TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In order to earn a second consecutive Sec. II, Class AA title, the Albany girls basketball team needed to do something it was unable to do in the regular season: beat Bethlehem.
The Falcons were overwhelmed by the Eagles back on Jan. 10, losing 65-47 in Bethlehem – their worst league loss of the year.
Decky Lawson’s bunch clearly learned a lot from that defeat, because when they squared off with the second-seeded Eagles Friday night at Hudson Valley Community College with a section title on the line, the roles were reversed. Albany came away with a 56-47 win, backed by a 22-point effort from senior forward Shonyae Edmonds for the program’s second straight Class AA crown.
The top-seeded Falcons came out on the attack, scoring at will in the paint in the first quarter, and playing a suffocating brand of defense. With less than a minute to play in the first, Edmonds laid in a transition, two-point bucket off a half-court dime from sophomore guard Azera Gates, and the Falcons maintained a 15-5 edge by quarter’s end.
Albany’s lead grew to as many as 13 points in the second frame, but then Bethlehem started to find some success as well in the interior. Midway through the quarter, sophomore forward Kaitlyn Robbins and junior forward Caroline Davis scored lay-ups on back-to-back paint touches, trimming the Eagles’ deficit to eight points at 20-12.
But just 36 seconds after Davis managed to cut the margin to single-digits, Edmonds collected an offensive rebound, and stuck the put-back, reclaiming Albany a ten-point edge. The gap remained at ten until halftime, with the Falcons taking a 26-16 lead into the locker room.
Bethlehem showed no quit in the second half, and played an inspired final 16 minutes of basketball, managing to draw within five points on multiple occasions. But for every push the Eagles made, Albany countered at the other end. Bethlehem outscored the Falcons 33-31 over the final two quarters, but that first-quarter, 10-point deficit it faced proved too much to overcome, and Albany secured the 57-49 victory.
Winning back-to-back section titles is something Coach Lawson not only wanted for his players, but for the team’s supporters as well.
“Goin’ back-to-back…that was our goal comin’ in the first day of practice,” said Lawson. “The girls, they said this is what they wanted to do. Goin’ back-to-back means so much for our school, for our team, for our community. You know, we wanted to do it for us, and we wanted to earn the respect from our community.”
Edmonds earned tournament MVP with her game-high 22 points and nine rebounds. She believes the regular season loss suffered at Bethlehem added further fuel to the team’s competitive fire.
“They beat us before, so we really wanted to get revenge,” said Edmonds. “We gave it our all. It shows all the hard work we put in. We’re in states now, and we’re gonna win.”
Edmonds and company will have an opportunity to back that claim up beginning Saturday, March 11, when they play in regionals at SRC Arena in Syracuse. The Falcons’ opponent has not yet been announced.
Bethlehem finishes as the runner-up in Class AA, and ends the year with a 17-5 overall record.