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SMC Basketball: Belles seek tenth league win against Albion

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Belles are trying to reach .500 for just the second time this season tonight at Albion College (15-8, 7-7 MIAA).

The only other time Saint Mary’s (11-12, 9-5 MIAA) had an even record was after a 65-61 win over Franklin in the team’s second game of the season. The Belles lost their next four games.

But with their recent stretch of six wins in their last eight games, the Belles are serious contenders going into the MIAA tournament, boasting a 9-5 record in conference play and a guaranteed finish of no less than fourth place. What’s more, A win tonight would give the Belles their first 10-win season since joining the MIAA in1997.

Saint Mary’s is confident going into this game, especially after its first encounter with Albion. In a last minute thriller on Jan. 18, the Belles upset Albion, then 12-4, in a showcase of sophomore guard Allison Kessler’s talents.

The 55-51 win instilled the team with a surge of confidence and helped the Belles recognize they had players who could carry the team on their backs.

And after showing its toughness in three close victories over the next three weeks, the team enters tonight’s game on a roll.

“We’ve had a lot of freshmen mature during this season and that has led us to win a lot more games,” senior captain and guard Bridget Boyce said. “We’ve become a lot tougher mentally, and I don’t think we could have won without it.”

The first matchup against Albion also boosted the Belles’ mental toughness, Boyce said.

Boyce said Saint Mary’s showed in that game it could win as the underdog in a close game – and without one of its main contributors, point guard Bridget Lipke.

In order to complete the season sweep against the Britons, Saint Mary’s will have to stop Albion guard Jaime Fornetti, who has scored in double digits in four of the last five games.

Saint Mary’s also must force the Britons to keep the ball on the perimeter and take lower percentage shots.

Senior forward Shelly Bender said the game is very important to the Belles, as it could lead to a first-round home game in the postseason. A win tonight guarantees the Belles third place in the MIAA and the first tournament game in Angela Athletic Facility in more than five years.

“We’ve been playing really well and have kicked it up a notch at the end of the season,” Bender said. “We have a potential to host a team in the playoffs, and are really looking forward to it.”