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SMC Basketball

Season Recap: Belles keep fighting spirit in tough season

| Friday, May 16, 2014

Saint Mary's freshman point guard Kristen Kleist looks to pass while avoiding two defenders during 95-68 loss to Calvin on Jan. 15.Caroline Genco | The Observer

Saint Mary’s freshman point guard Kristen Kleist looks to pass while avoiding two defenders during 95-68 loss to Calvin on Jan. 15.

Saint Mary’s had its highs and lows throughout the season, but as Belles coach Jenn Henley will be sure to tell you, her team never gave up.

“That is what I will remember this team for the most,” she said. “They never quit.”

The Belles (7-18, 5-11 MIAA) opened their season in mid-November with tournaments at St. Norbert in Green Bay, Wis., and Wheaton in Wheaton, Ill. Although they went 1-3 at the tournaments, the Belles blew past Northland, 83-33, for their first win of the season.

Despite three three-game losing streaks during the season, Henley said she remained confident in her team, even after a 90-89 loss on Dec. 7 to North Central on a buzzer-beater.

“The game against North Central was a good one for us,” she said. “Even though we lost, we maintained such an intense pace of play against a team who runs the [fast-paced] Grinnell system.”

The Belles carried that intensity into their next game against Trine. Saint Mary’s secured a 60-42 victory, its first conference win of the year.

Henley also highlighted conference wins over Alma and Albion in January as high points in the season.

Against Alma (0-25, 0-16), the Belles trailed by 10 with 8:51 to play, but a 13-0 run gave them a 70-67 win over the Scots. Senior guard Shanlynn Bias, who led the team this season with 14.7 points per game and 2.68 assists per game, had a game-high 20 points.

After a stretch of three tough losses, a back-and-forth game against Albion (9-16, 5-11) ended knotted at 55-55. Henley said the Belles once again demonstrated their resiliency, missing just one shot in overtime to secure a 67-64 win.

Although the Belles struggled towards the end of the year, dropping five of their last six, they defeated Alma 72-61 on senior day and finished with a 7-18 record overall, an improvement over their 5-20 record in 2012-13.

Henley said she is looking forward to seeing how her young team will continue to progress next season without two important leaders, graduating seniors Bias and forward Katherine Wabler.

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