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SMC BASKETBALL: Hope defense holds off Belles for 61-48 win

Kevin Brennan | Monday, February 7, 2005

Saint Mary’s played even with MIAA leader Hope for 34 minutes Saturday. But Hope ended the first half on a six-minute, 18-4 run and defeated the Belles 61-48.

The contest began as a defensive battle and after eight minutes of play, the two teams had combined for a mere 13 points.

“We were just doing the things we needed to do,” Saint Mary’s coach Suzanne Bellina said of her team’s early play.

With 6:18 remaining in the half, Belles center Maureen Bush hit a turnaround jumper in the lane to give Saint Mary’s a 16-15 lead. The Flying Dutch offense then woke up and Hope took a 33-20 lead into the locker room.

“We relaxed and they took total advantage of it,” Bellina said of the last six minutes of the first half. “You can’t do that against a team like that.”

Saint Mary’s couldn’t close the gap in the second half. The Belles cut Hope’s advantage to seven points on several occasions, but failed to get any closer.

Hope, the top defensive team in the conference, prevented the Belles from developing any consistent offensive play. Saint Mary’s shot 34.5 percent from the floor for the game and only 27.3 percent in the first half.

“They are very big so it’s hard to shoot over them,” Bellina said. “You can’t get much going without second chance opportunities.”

Saint Mary’s offense also suffered with the absence of leading scorer Emily Creachbaum for much of the game. In foul trouble all day, Creachbaum played only 17 minutes, scoring six points.

While disappointed with the loss, the Belles will take some positives from the performance. In Creachbaum’s absence, the Saint Mary’s bench played well with Deirdre Mangan and Abbey Baum each making significant contributions of six and four points, respectively.

Guard Katie Boyce returned to the lineup Saturday after missing three weeks with a torn tendon in her foot. The Belles rely on Boyce, last season’s MIAA defensive player of the year, for her ball handling and stellar defense. The senior played 17 minutes and scored six points in the game.

“I was so impressed with her,” Bellina said. “She was able to step into the flow of the offense without missing a beat.”

Bellina said that Boyce’s presence on the court is crucial as the regular season winds down. With four games remaining, Saint Mary’s hopes to finish fourth in the MIAA and host a first round playoff game. The Belles are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place, but trail fourth-place Tri-State by just one half game. Bellina believes that Saturday’s performance will help the Belles during the crucial final four games.

“I think we definitely take confidence from this game, recognizing that we can play with the top team in the league,” Bellina said. “It’s just a matter of where we go from here.”