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SMC Basketball: Belles fall in finals to Hope

Michael Blasco | Monday, March 2, 2009

Despite a record-breaking run to the championship, the Belles will have a hard time forgetting the end.

The Belles’ first ever MIAA Championship appearance ended with a 77-47 loss to No. 1 Hope Saturday at the Flying Dutchmen’s DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, Mich. The loss capped a season in which the No. 2 Belles (17-10, 13-3 MIAA) set a program record in wins.

“From this point forward, we continue to do what we have done in the past,” Belles coach Jennifer Henley said. “Our four outgoing seniors have set the bar high for those that follow. I am very proud of this team and all that they have accomplished this season.”

The Belles had trouble getting shots to fall throughout the night, ending with 23 percent shooting and going 0-for-10 in three-point attempts. Senior forward Erin Newsom finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and a block, while freshman guard Maggie Ronan came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 10 points in 21 minutes.

“Hope does not have a lot of weaknesses,” Henley said. “They are led by a very dominant inside game. They also shoot well from the outside and have great depth to keep that going. We got our shots, but they weren’t falling. It just wasn’t our night.”

That “dominant” inside game of the Dutchmen (25-1, 15-1 MIAA) produced 42 points, 23 rebounds and 11 blocks and chased the Belles out of the paint all night. Sophomore forward Carrie Snikkers dominated the court with 20 points (including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc), 10 rebounds and five blocks. Senior center Courtney Knox also posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds on the night.

Saint Mary’s was on its heels from tip-off. Hope opened the game with a 12-2 run to set up a sizeable lead five minutes into the game, but the Belles ground out some points to draw the game to 27-22 halfway through the first. A late 12-0 run from the Dutchmen ended the half at 39-22, putting it out of reach for the outmatched Saint Mary’s squad.

Coming out of halftime, Hope poured on the gas to stretch their lead to 36 points halfway through the second as turnovers and missed opportunities began to pile up for the Belles. Enjoying an insurmountable lead, the Dutchmen rotated in bench players throughout much of the final minutes, but Saint Mary’s was never able to put together a response.

The win extended Hope’s home winning streak to 47. The Dutchmen are 58-1 overall at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

Despite the tough loss, the Belles turned in perhaps their finest season. After graduating one of the most distinguished senior classes in the program’s history, Saint Mary’s used a balance of veteran leadership and impact freshmen to finish with 13 wins in the MIAA, second only to Hope’s 15-1 mark. The Dutchmen’s lone loss came at the hands of the Belles at Saint Mary’s Angela Athletic Facility in January.

Henley said she is confident that her squad will be able to build on this season’s success, and the strong freshman and sophomore classes are a testament to the program’s bright future.

“With each new season, we continue to try and get one step closer to the [NCAA Division III Championships],” Henley said. “Despite coming up short, making it to the championship game validates that we are moving in the right direction.”