By ROB JONAS
TROY – Six years to the date they last won the Section 2 Class AA girls basketball title, the Colonie Garnet Raiders have ascended to the top of the mountain.
Aliyah Wright hit four of her seven three-pointers on her way to a 23-point afternoon to lead No. 2 Colonie past No. 4 Bethlehem 67-49 in the championship game Saturday, March 3, at Hudson Valley Community College.
“It means so much,” said Wright, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. “Last year, we were the eighth seed and we lost in the first round. This year, we won it as the second seed.”
“We talked about signs,” said Colonie coach Heather DiBiase. “Realizing that six years to the day we won our last title, and here we are six years later – sectional champions.”
Colonie came out of the gate strong and never let up. A 9-0 run midway through the first quarter opened up a 13-4 lead. Then, the Garnet Raiders started the second quarter on a 12-4 run to push their advantage to 17 points. Bethlehem never got any closer than 11 points the rest of the game.
“We just never got into a good rhythm,” said Bethlehem coach Matt Bixby. “Nothing consistent enough to make a substantial run.”
At the heart of Colonie's championship performance was a trio of four-year starters – Wright, Erin Fouracre and Alivia Paeglow. Besides Wright's 23 points, Paeglow was a force in the paint with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Fouracre had eight points, contributed three assists and did not turn the ball over once. Sophomore forward Sareena DiCerbo added 13 points and eight boards.
“This group has been together for a long time,” said DiBiase. “They deserved this today.”
Bethlehem had its own group of experienced starters – seniors Julie Okoniewski, Tessa Hughes, and twin sisters Molly and Maggie Kirby. The Lady Eagles wanted to establish Okoniewski near the basket, but Okoniewski committed two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and sat out much of the first half. Okoniewski was limited to four points and five rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Maggie Kirby led Bethlehem with 15 points and seven rebounds. Molly Kirby contributed 10 points, and Hughes and Ava Clair each added seven points.
Colonie advances to the Class AA regionals next weekend against the Section 3 champion.