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SMC Basketball: Bender loses in first scrimmage with Belles

Jack Thornton | Friday, November 4, 2005

With the first regular season game just two weeks away and only two full weeks of practice behind him, first-year Belles’ coach Steve Bender decided to throw his players into the fire and see what they were made of.

“I wanted to scrimmage somebody that would just kick our fannies, you know, because that’s a great wake-up call and that’s exactly what we need,” Bender said. “It doesn’t do us any good to go out and thump somebody and get a false sense of secuirty. I love to go out and just play tough people.”

Bender got what he was hoping for Thursday. The Belles hosted the fitter, more-seasoned Lady Pilots of Bethel in a three-half scrimmage, falling 109-62 and dropping the first two by a combined score of 85-50.

“We were a lot more conditioned than they were,” Lady Pilots guard Abby Noll said. “We started off kind of slow, but we got up and down the court a lot quicker than they did. I just think we wore them out.”

The evening started out well for the Belles. Saint Mary’s zone defense was solid early, forcing Bethel to take risky threes. On offense the Belles converted both in transition and in the half-court set and took an 11-9 lead with under 11 minutes left before things fell apart. Utilizing a string of costly Saint Mary’s turnovers, the Lady Pilots went on a 10-0 run and never looked back.

“When Saint Mary’s was fresh, they were executing very well,” Bethel coach Jody Martinez said. “They had the lead, they kept it close, but as our condtioning came into effect in our transition game, then we wore them out. It’s obvious that we’ve practiced longer.”

Bethel has now had 24 practices plus Thursday night’s scrimmage, while Saint Mary’s is just entering its third week of practices.

“What we can get out of this is that we’d like to get transition-wise where Bethel is,” Bender said. “They get up and down the court, but I think two more weeks from now, we’ll get closer.”

Saint Mary’s couldn’t provide much of a defensive challenge to Bethel, which didn’t play three of its starters. The Lady Pilots shot over 50 percent (33-for-65) from the field in the first two halves, including a 9-for-16 performance from behind the arc in the second half.

“My teammates got me the ball, and just set good screeens, and we had really good ball rotation tonight,” said Noll, who led the Lady Pilots with 20 points.

The night wasn’t without a few bright spots for Saint Mary’s. The Belles were 5-for-10 from 3-point range in the first two halves and outscored Bethel 24-12 in the third half.

“I think that we exectued offensively very well,” said Belles guard Nicole Tucker, who led Saint Mary’s with nine points. “I just think that we missed a lot of blooper shots.”

Thursday was Bender’s first game action as head coach, giving Saint Mary’s fans a chance to see the impact he’ll make with his motion-style offense.

“I saw a lot of good things,” Bender said. “We just missed a lot of easy stuff and they were hotter than a firecracker. I really think we’ve got a lot of good parts, we just broke down mentally a little bit when things got bad, but that’s just frustration – and that’s my fault, we’ll eventually get there.”