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SMC Basketball: Belles pull off tough MIAA win

Fran Tolan | Thursday, February 2, 2006

Saint Mary’s held off a late rush by Olivet to pull a huge MIAA upset Wednesday, winning 74-66 and improving to 10-11 overall and 8-4 in the MIAA.

It was the third win in a row for the Belles, who had lost to Olivet 92-55 in their first meeting of the season.

After falling behind 11-4 in the first three minutes, Saint Mary’s took the lead and controlled the tempo for the remainder of the contest. The Belles switched to a 1-2-2 zone following their rocky start – frustrating Olivet in the process.

“The matchup zone was definitely the key to our turnaround,” said Saint Mary’s coach Steve Bender, whose team led 40-28 at halftime.

The Belles did not let up to start the second half, extending their lead to 21 points with just 12 minutes left in the contest. But the Comets offense clawed back, narrowing the deficit to 7 points when Stephanie Smith hit a three-pointer with 1:45 to play.

The Belles held on to win it due to their solid free-throw shooting. They made 28 of their 36 attempts from the line, including 8-of-10 after Smith’s shot.

Led by last week’s MIAA Player of the Week Alison Kessler, who made 15-of-18 from the line and finished with 28 points, Saint Mary’s played what Bender called “a really great game.”

“This was an absolutely huge win for us,” Bender said, after his team secured at least a .500 record in league play.

Shelly Bender recorded a double-double for the Belles with 12 points. She also added 11 rebounds – a career high.

Audrey Graham led Olivet (12-7 overall, 8-3 MIAA) with 20 points. But, with the victory, Saint Mary’s drew to within a half-game of the Comets for third place in the conference.

The Belles host Calvin College at the Angela Athletic Center at 3 p.m. Saturday. Calvin is ranked 14th among Division III schools and Saint Mary’s looks to record its first-ever win against the high-powered squad.