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SMC Basketball: Belles play .500 ball over break

Tim Kaiser | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Before Christmas break, the Belles were 1-5 and preparing to face MIAA rival Alma on Dec. 7.

The Belles won that game and split their 10 games during finals and winter break to run their record to 6-10. This puts them at fifth place in the MIAA coming into tonight’s showdown with conference rival Albion College. A win against the Britons would push the Belles up to fourth place in the standings, a position now held by Albion.

The Belles are pleased with their play in their last 10 games but know they have to improve even more.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” coach Steve Bender said. “Our inexperienced post players have come long way, and our freshmen.”

Bender believes his team is as good as anybody but is puzzled about why it can’t win at Saint Mary’s.

“I’m really proud of ability to play well on road,” he said. “We’ve got to solve the mystery of why we play poorly at home. We need to step it up at home, starting [tonight].”

Despite the difficulties while playing on their home court, the Belles had plenty of memorable games during the winter break.

“We can’t shoot much better than we did at Kalamazoo – 12 threes is a school record,” Bender said. “We had a great game at Calvin and a great game at Alma.”

When asked which players had carried the team to its recent 5-5 stretch, Bender pointed to his captains, as well as other role players.

“We have great veteran leadership. [Bridget] Boyce, [Bridget] Lipke, [and Alison] Kessler, have shown really great leadership … and Nicole Tucker has been shooting the ball well coming off the bench,” he said.

The Belles face a challenge in Wednesday night’s matchup against Albion College. The two teams each have a 4-3 record in the MIAA, but despite the postseason implications, the Belles think that they can beat the Britons to notch just their second win at home.

Bender described practices this week as “just great,” adding, “We’re starting to practice like a veteran team.”

The Belles will need to have a good week of practice to win against Albion, a tough team with a 12-4 record overall.

“We’ve got to execute offensively tomorrow and cut down on turnovers,” Bender said. “They are a great team defensive team.”

Bender believes he has developed a game plan for victory, however.

“It has to be our ability to stop their inside game,” he said. “They have great ball movement, great defensive court coverage. We’ve got to make them work for it.”

The Belles know that a win tonight would help them shake off their troubles playing at home, and will certainly help their conference record.

“Tomorrow is a potential statement game,” Bender said. “If we are ready to go, it will be great game to watch. The only thing that concerns me is that they have more depth and experience, but I think enthusiasm will get us through.”