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SMC BASKETBALL: Belles ready to face conference foe Alma

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

After a heartbreaking one-point loss at Adrian last Saturday, Saint Mary’s looks to rebound tonight in another MIAA showdown against Alma at home.

With just seven games remaining – all against conference opponents – the Belles are looking to regain the momentum that they carried in the two-game winning streak they put together before the Adrian loss.

A strong finish to the season would probably give the Belles one of the top four seeds in the MIAA going into the conference tournament. This would be very significant for the team because it would allow the Belles to play their opening round game at home, a feat they have never accomplished.

“It would definitely be a tremendous boost for us to host a conference playoff game,” coach Steve Bender said. “That’s definitely one of our big goals.”

Currently, Saint Mary’s (7-11 overall, 5-4 MIAA) sits in fourth place in the conference, one game ahead of Albion.

But before the Belles look toward the postseason, Bender said they have some issues to resolve.

First and foremost, the team must find a way to make up for the loss of point guard Bridget Lipke, who will most likely miss her second straight game due to injury.

Also, the Belles must focus on playing a complete game. Against Adrian, they fell behind 32-9 in the first half and were never able to fully recover. Starting slowly has been a major problem for the team throughout the season and Bender knows that it could prove fatal against tonight’s opponent.

The Belles have already defeated Alma once this year but, without Lipke, the MIAA assists leader, they have their work cut out for them. Alma, a team that averages more than 70 points per contest, played undefeated Hope this week and led with eight minutes to go before eventually losing a close one.

“We know they have a very high-powered offense, so we’re going to have to put up a lot of points,” Bender said. “We need to find better team balance than we’ve had recently.”

Bender said he was extremely pleased with his team’s performance in the second half against Adrian and hopes the strong play carries over into tonight’s game.

“We played a great final 12 minutes,” Bender said. “That left me feeling pretty good about the [Alma] game.”

The teams will square off tonight at 7 p.m. in the Angela Athletic Center on Saint Mary’s campus.