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SMC Basketball: Belles win big, clinch home-court advantage

Griffin Dassatti | Monday, February 25, 2008

Forget what the schedule says, Saint Mary’s just wasn’t ready to close the doors of the Angela Athletic Center for the season.

Coming into Saturday’s game against Olivet, the Belles (12-12, 8-8 MIAA) and Comets (9-15, 7-9 MIAA) were tied for fourth place in the MIAA. The winner would clinch home-court advantage for the first round of this week’s tournament. Saint Mary’s did so convincingly, beating the Comets 74-56 behind another stellar effort by senior guard Alison Kessler.

Kessler ended her regular season career with a bang, scoring 29 points on 9-for-22 shooting from the field and making 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

The contest went back and forth for the first half. At one point, Saint Mary’s had a seven-point lead, but that was the furthest apart the two teams got as Olivet matched the Belles shot for shot for the remainder of the half. Still, Saint Mary’s went into the locker room with a 28-25 lead.

At the half, Belles head coach Jennifer Henley told her team the one thing she knew would motivate them.

“At halftime, we talked about trying to get Alison one more home game for her senior year and that was really all the motivation they needed,” Henley said.

The second half began much the same as the first, with the first 10 minutes seeing six ties and neither team leading by more than four. Then, midway through the half, someone flipped a switch for Saint Mary’s. The Belles went on a 12-0 run, putting the game out of reach.

Henley said the run happened because the Belles got back to the basis of their offense.

“I don’t think it was anything in particular,” Henley said. “We really wanted to go back to using our two-man game and try and getting some looks off of that and if not trying to get to the foul line. … Alison got hot, [junior guard] Katie Rashid got hot, and I just think that helped open things up a little bit.”

Once again, the Belles’ win was a result of a solid performance from the starting five. Along with Kessler’s outstanding individual line, junior forward Erin Newsom scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for her second straight double-double. Junior Katie Rashid contributed 14 points of her own.

With first-round home-court advantage in hand, the Belles will face Olivet again Tuesday in the first-round of the MIAA tournament.