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SMC Basketball: Team set for busy few weeks

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saint Mary’s (3-4, 1-1 MIAA) will have to keep focused as the Belles head into a stretch that will see them play seven games between Dec. 21 and Jan. 9. That break schedule includes a pair of tournaments and three conference matchups.

“We have a lot of basketball to play over the holiday break from classes, so maintaining our focus will be key,” Belles coach Jennifer Henley said. “There are no bad teams in the MIAA, just bad records. You have to be prepared every night you step on the court to play, and you can never overlook an opponent.”

The Belles will play Hope College (7-0, 1-0) to open the Hope Classic in Holland, Mich., on Dec. 21. That game will count toward the MIAA standings. Saint Mary’s will face either North Park (0-6) or Hanover (4-2) in the second round of the tournament the next day.

Saint Mary’s will then travel to Westerville, Ohio, for the Otterbein O Club Tournament and games against Kenyon (3-5) on Dec. 28 and either Franklin (4-3) or host Otterbein (4-4) on Dec. 29.

The Belles will visit Alma (3-4, 1-0) on Jan. 5 and Albion (6-1) on Jan. 9 before classes resume on Jan. 14.

Saturday’s 82-68 victory at Tri-State gave Saint Mary’s its first conference win and marked the beginning of eight straight games on the road for the Belles. The team has yet to win consecutive games and has struggled with in-game consistency, especially during second halves of contests.

The Belles have led at halftime in six of their seven games, outscoring opponents 240-178 in the opening period. But the team has been outscored 246-227 following intermission.

Henley said her squad has to display better fundamentals in order to reach a more consistent level of play.

“We need to continue to improve on our team defense and shutting down opponents in the paint, and we also need to focus on limiting our turnovers and taking away second shot opportunities from opponents,” the coach said.

Despite the Belles’ early struggles, Henley is encouraged by her team’s efforts, especially the contributions of senior guard Alison Kessler (16.6 points, 6.0 rebounds per game), junior forward Erin Newsom (11.6 points, MIAA-high 9.7 rebounds) and sophomore forward Anna Kammrath (10.7 points, 8.1 rebounds).

“At this point in the season, this team has shown that they can score a lot of points and that our transition game is pretty good,” Henley said.