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Kessler awarded for stellar conference play

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

After a 1-6 start that included a four-game losing streak, Saint Mary’s has gone 4-3 since Dec. 6.

Since a 72-69 win over Anderson in their conference opener on Nov. 20, the Belles have defeated Adrian, Alma, Tri-state and Kalamazoo and lost to Hope, Olivet and Calvin en route to a 4-3 conference record, good for fourth in the MIAA.

A large factor in this recent upswing has been the play of junior guard Alison Kessler, who was named MIAA Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 31 to Jan. 6. During the three games that week, Kessler averaged 24 points and six assists per game.

“I’m very grateful,” Kessler said of the honor. “I’m grateful for my teammates as well. It’s a win for the team, for everyone.”

Although the honor is given to an individual player, Kessler credits her teammates.

“They contribute in a lot of ways,” she said. “They give me assists, set screens, and just talk and communicate.”

This season, as Kessler has gone, so have the Belles. She averages 21.4 points per game in wins and 17.6 points in losses. She leads the MIAA in scoring, averaging 19.1 points per game. Her 30 points and 13 foul shots against Olivet on Jan. 4 were both MIAA season highs.

Kessler shrugs it off as a side-effect of good basketball.

“When the team’s playing well, all the individual players play well,” she said.

The Belles are in position to make the conference tournament, a goal that seemed distant during the frustrating start. They are fresh of a 72-40 drubbing of Kalamazoo at home, a game in which four starters scored in double figures. They will travel tonight to face an Albion team that has won two straight and also blew out Kalamazoo.

The Britons are 8-7, 3-4 in conference play. Led by senior guards Jessica Babcock, who averages 12.7 points per game, and Amy Aemisegger, who shoots 50 percent from three-point range, the Britons average 59.1 points per game.

The game should be a close one, and the Belles, with a win and an Olivet loss, could jump to third in the MIAA standings. Saint Mary’s is hitting its stride, scoring more points, shooting better and committing fewer turnovers than in the first half of the season. Kessler believes maturation has a large part to play in the surge.

“We’re maturing. We’re a really young team,” she said. “We’re mostly freshmen and sophomores. We only have three upperclassmen. We’re more mature now and are getting used to the physical play.”