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SMC BASKETBALL: Belles aim to improve on 1-4 start to season

Joe Meixell | Friday, December 2, 2005

After a 1-4 start for the Belles, coach Steve Bender hopes to use his team’s constant intensity to turn the season around, starting with North Park University.

Saint Mary’s has had little proof of the hard work they have put into training for basketball, but despite their record has not lost their concentration.

“The one main high point of this team is their intensity,” said Bender. “I can never fault them for that.”

But unfortunately for the Belles, hard work alone does not win basketball games. The Belles have struggled this year on offense. Their leading scorer, Allison Kessler, averages 12.8 points a game, but also shoots a mere 42 percent from the floor. In fact, the team as a whole has a 34 percent field goal percentage, far too low for any team with a chance of winning big games.

“We’ve had to get back to the fundamentals at practice,” Bender said. “We need to work on the little things before we can improve.”

After playing Hope on Wednesday, Bender has been concerned with the lack of a strong presence in the paint. The Belles will alternate between a three guard lineup and the traditional two guards, two forwards, and a center formation, which already eliminates an inside presence for Saint Mary’s. Also, center/forward Nicole Beier averages only three rebounds a game, while point guard Bridget Lipke leads the team with thirty rebounds in the five games this year.

“We have been working at practice to build up our confidence when we have the ball,” Bender said when asked about his team’s struggling offense. “We need to be stronger offensively to take the ball to the basket.”

The Belles also need to improve their turnover margin. In their first five games, the Belles forced 76 opponent turnovers while committing a whopping 97 of their own. This ratio needs to improve if the Belles want to win against a beatable North Park team.

On a positive note, Coach Bender has been impressed with Lipke, who has emerged as a team leader. Lipke, the starting point guard, has played with a passion for the game that has led her to be the highest rebounder and second highest scorer on the team.

“Bridget has definitely been the leader so far this year,” said Bender. “I hope that her love of the game is contagious.”