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SMC Basketball: Belles take on ranked team in MIAA game

Meaghan Veselik | Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coming off of their first conference win, the Belles travel to Calvin today to take on the No. 19 Knights in the second MIAA match of the season. Saint Mary’s defeated Calvin in each of the three contests between the two last season for the first time in school history.
Saint Mary’s (4-2, 1-0 MIAA) recently defeated conference foe Trine in its season opener Saturday.

“Winning the conference opener is always a good win,” Belles coach Jenn Henley said of Saint Mary’s third home match. “Even better that it was at home.”

The Belles battled it out with the Thunder through five lead changes and eight ties to take the lead late in the second half. Up until that point, neither team had been able to keep a lead of more than five points until Saint Mary’s went on a 10-0 scoring run in the last few minutes of the game.

Losing four seniors to graduation made things harder for the Belles as they started up the new season. Henley has been forced to work with her few returning players, many of whom had little playing time last season. A strong freshman class has helped Henley in making the transition to a much younger team, and has allowed her underclassmen to take a much larger role on the court.

A young team does mean inexperience and reworking on the floor, however. Saint Mary’s has struggled the most so far this season at protecting the basket and working together up and down the court. Although they have outscored their opponents 430-337, the Belles defense is not where Henley would like it to be.

“We are still focused on playing better team defense as we go on the road Wednesday,” Henley said. 

With it being the last week of classes and finals coming up, Henley is concerned for the overall welfare of her team as well as improving her team’s performance.

“As we prepare for Calvin on Wednesday, we certainly understand that this is tough week for all students heading into finals — we will keep practice shorter this week,” Henley said.

The Knights most recent meeting with the Belles in last season’s MIAA tournament semifinal match, which Saint Mary’s won 67-58. It was the first time the Belles had defeated the Knights, who have had a strong start this winter with a 7-1 record. But Henley and the Belles know what is necessary for them to come out on top, and have a game plan ready for Wednesday night.

“Calvin is a very strong team,” Henley said. “We need to be able to set the tone early with our defense and control the boards at both ends.”

Saint Mary’s takes on Calvin at 7:30 p.m. at the Knights’ Van Noord Arena for its second conference contest this season.