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SMC Basketball: Belles set to take on Olivet in tournament

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Saint Mary’s begins postseason play tonight at home at 7:30 as the Belles take on rival Olivet in the first round of the MIAA tournament.

The week-long tournament kicked off last night with a play-in game between No. 9 Kalamazoo and No. 8 Tri-State in which the Thunder knocked the Hornets out with an 80-70 victory.

The Belles (12-12, 8-8 MIAA) defeated Olivet 74-56 Saturday in their last regular season game – giving them a fourth-place finish in the regular season and earning them home-court advantage for tonight’s contest.

“It’s nice to host this part of the MIAA tournament,” Belles coach Jenn Henley said. “We have been on the road so much this season. One of our team goals was to be in the top four of the MIAA so that we could be at home.”

Last season, Henley led the Belles to one of their best seasons in the program history with a record of 12-13, 10-6 MIAA. The squad reached the semifinals of the post-season tournament, where it lost 71-52 to Hope.

Olivet was knocked out of last year’s tournament by Albion in the first round. The Belles hope to hand Olivet a similar fate tonight.

“If there is an advantage to playing Olivet on Tuesday, it would be that we are familiar with them,” Henley said.

After being on the road for the early part of the season, Saint Mary’s has played its last five games at home, going 3-2 in those contests.

Senior Alison Kessler has rewritten Saint Mary’s history during this homestand, setting the career points record against Adrian on Feb. 20 to go with a record for career 3-pointers on Feb. 9. She now has 1581 points and 139 treys as a Belle.

Despite their current hot streak, the Belles know they have their work cut out for them as they begin the post-season.

“The tournament week is always tough,” Henley said. “You are seeing teams for the third time in a season and everyone should be playing their best basketball. There is not a lot of down time between games, so teams really have to be focused.”

Tonight’s winner will play Thursday against the winner of tonight’s game between No. 8 Tri-State and No.1 Hope. Hope bumped Saint Mary’s out of the tournament last year, and has beaten the Belles twice this season. But the Belles are focused on Tuesday’s game before looking ahead.

“We need to carry over the momentum we had from Saturday into [tonight’s] game,” Henley said. “We need to improve on the boards and be sure to finish our shots in the paint. I thought we missed too many layups on Saturday.”

Whatever the outcome of tonight’s game, Henley said she is pleased with her team and its season.

“I think, overall, we have worked very hard to be in the top four of the conference,” she said. “I am very proud of this team and its strong finish down the stretch.”