GLENS FALLS — The Bethlehem boys exceptional basketball season came to an end a game shy of winning the Section II title.
The No. 2 seed Saratoga got the better of The Eagles, the No. 1 seed heading into the tournament, on Sunday, March 3, at the Cool Insuring Arena by a final of 69 to 58.
Bethlehem finishes the season with a 15-1 record in the Suburban Council — losing only the last game of the regular season to CBA — and 21-2 overall.
The game was closer than the final score, but Saratoga did lead at the end of each quarter, and answered every time Bethlehem put together a run. Still, Bethlehem was only down four points at halftime and five points at the end of three so heading into the last quarter it was very much anybody’s game.
“Our shooting percentage was terrible, our free throws were not great. There was some play calling that took place we didn’t follow through on. When we freelance we are not as good as when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing,” said Coach A.G. Irons.
Bethlehem squared off against Saratoga on Jan. 15 as the two remaining undefeated teams in the Suburban Council. Bethlehem came out on top 75-65.
Saturday, though, it was a different story.
“I thought we did a good job getting to the basket and I thought we got a good job of getting them in foul trouble in the first half but that didn’t continue into the second half so that was difficult for us. When you get there and think you are going to get hit and you think you are going to get a call and it wasn’t happening,” Irons said. “And we worked hard on getting some charges and I don’t think we got some calls we could have gotten.”
Saratoga won its first Section II title since 1988.
“I’m so proud of the way they worked and we had some seniors who had some loft goals for us early on and they are feeling pretty good right now,” said Saratoga coach Matt Usher on News Channel 13.
Irons mentioned “freelancing,” and part of his philosophy is to have his team work together. That was exemplified by standout, Michael Ortale, not wanting to know when he was approaching 1,000 points in the Feb. 26 semi-final game against CBA.
“Not that he would not have done it if he wasn’t part of this program, but playing as a team is something we stress and it was nothing I made up, it was something he wanted,” Irons said. “It was a classy move, not just for CBA but our guys who were not worried about that, but worried about team play and winning the game.”
Irons sent out a Tweet after the game, announcing Ortale scored 13 points putting him across the coveted threshold by four. The Iona-bound senior had 12 against Saratoga in the finals, so he finishes his high school career with 1,016 points. And he missed his junior year to injury.
In all, Irons said, going 21-2 was something his team should be proud of.
“Today is a tough time to talk about it with the loss, and obviously you want to win it all, but overall a fantastic season,” he said.
Click on a photo below to view a slideshow of the rest.