Head coach Matthew Bixby is very optimistic about his Bethlehem High School girls basketball team this season.


Bixby, in his third year as varsity coach at Bethlehem and sixth overall, finished 11-9 the first time and then went 15-5 before losing 74-65 in double overtime in Class AA quarterfinal playoff.

Bixby's coaching staff includes assistant Trish Piccini (three years), junior varsity coach Dave Palmer and freshmen coach Sarah Hopkins.

"We are a very young, athletic, and coachable team. We have not been together as a team for very long. We have six new players to the team this year, three of whom are freshmen. Coming into the season, the only time we had played together was at a team camp at Princeton for two days over the summer, so we are really lacking “game experience," said Bixby.

Captains Tori McGrath, Allie Olsen and Bridget Murphy are the Eagles key players.

"They are veterans of our team and wonderful leaders. They truly know what it means to be winners and how to play the game the right way. They are wonderful role models for our younger players," said Bixby.

Freshman Gabby Giacone leads the squad with a 16.5 scoring average, pulling down nine rebounds per game, while Murphy is next at 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Bixby feels this is the most coachable team he's had and calls them "fighters".

"There is no quit in this team and they are steadily learning how to come together and put that out on the court. Game in and game out, they give everything they have, and that is what will hopefully make us successful. I truly believe that the sky is the limit for this team and we just need to keep our focus on improving one day at a time and continuing to get better each and every day," he said.

Bethlehem opened the season with a 51-41 loss to Albany, beat Schenectady, 72-35, was beaten by Averill Park, 45-40, beat Guilderland, 55-45, lost to Colonie, 52-50, got the best of Burnt Hills, 44-29 and had an easy time with Ballston Spa on Tuesday night, 68-29, as Murphy led with 19 points and Giacone added 13.

"We talk about winning as being defined as 'giving 100 percent effort both in practice and in games' and setting and reaching for the highest standards possible. As the season continues, I think that we are moving closer towards those goals, but need to keep it going in order to reach our ultimate goals," said Bixby.

Where does Bixby feel Bethlehem will finish in the Suburban Council South?

"I honestly have no idea. The Suburban Council, and in particular the South Division are so competitive every night that you never know what might happen. Either way, I do think that with a steady focus and a dedication to working hard and improving, we can continue to grow throughout the season and hopefully be a true sectional contender by the end of the season," he said.

Bethlehem, 3-2 in league play and 4-3 overall, will take a break and then visit Shenendehowa on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012.

Article by Mike Collar

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