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SMC BASKETBALL: Belles defeat Alma, 57-55

Tolan, Fran | Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just a few days after dropping a one-point contest at Adrian, the Saint Mary’s basketball team bounced back with a 57-55 win over Alma Wednesday night at the Angela Athletic Center at Saint Mary’s. The Belles improved their record to 8-11 overall and 6-4 in MIAA conference play with the win.

Using a wide array of defensive looks, Saint Mary’s held Alma (8-8 overall, 3-6 MIAA) well below its season average of 72 points per game. The Belles stifled the Scots potent offense by alternating among a pesky man defense and suffocating 1-3-1, 3-2, and 2-3 zones.

“Everyone played defense with 100 percent effort, and that is why we won,” senior forward Shelly Bender said.

Their effort at the defensive end, along with a balanced scoring attack that allowed four players to tally double-digit scoring figures, allowed the Belles to take a 13-point lead with about 12 minutes to go in the game.

But Alma battled back. After moving into a full-court press, the Scots cut the deficit to one with 2:20 to play. But Saint Mary’s never relinquished the lead it held since early in the first half.

Alison Kessler, who led the Belles with 14 points, hit an acrobatic runner in the lane to increase the lead to three. After Alma converted a free throw and held Saint Mary’s on defense they had a chance to tie or even win the game.

But, even though the Scots called a timeout with 13.2 seconds to go, they were unable to hit a shot to send the game into overtime.

Bridget Boyce scored 11 points and Erin Newsom and Nicole Beier each pitched in 10 for the Belles.

It was especially crucial for multiple players to create offense in this game because Saint Mary’s was playing without starting point guard and MIAA assists leader Bridget Lipke, who missed her second straight game due to an injury.

“We played well together as a team and that helped to compensate for not having Lipke,” Bender said.

This victory brought the Belles one step closer to their ultimate goal of hosting an MIAA post-season tournament game, an honor that goes to the top four seeds in the conference. They currently sit in fourth place with six games to play. The next contest for Saint Mary’s will take place this Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Angela Athletic Center.