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Belles open season at annual Tip-Off Classic tournament

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 19, 2004

After a disappointing 5-18 campaign in 2003-04, the Saint Mary’s basketball team is looking to take the first steps toward becoming an MIAA power this season. The first hurdle in achieving that goal will come this weekend, as the Belles play Franklin and Hanover on back-to-back days in the annual Tip-Off Classic.Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is also scheduled to play in this weekend’s tournament, but is not scheduled to play the Belles.The Hanover Panthers hail from Southern Indiana. They finished last season with a 13-13 mark, led by 15.4 points per game from Angela Newkirk. They skirted by the Belles with a 68-65 win in last year’s tournament, which was hosted by Rose-Hulman.”We’re excited,” Belles coach Suzanne Bellina said of the Hanover game, which will tip off at 6 p.m. tonight at the Angela Athletic Center. “It was three-point game last year, a game we could have won.”The Franklin Grizzlies are the defending champions of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and finished last season with a 23-5 record, including a 55-48 win over the Belles. Led by Lindsay Roberson, the Grizzlies advanced to the second round of the Division III tournament before losing to Wilmington 75-50.This year’s edition of the Belles will look different than past years. Bellina has made tactical changes, including changes to the offense and the use of more full-court press.”We’ve gained a lot of quickness in our guard positions,” she said. “We’re going to use that to pressure full court.”Saint Mary’s lost only one major contributor, point guard Katie Miller, off last season’s squad. According to Bellina, team leadership will not be a problem this year.”We have four seniors who, along with the rest of the team, are really focused on making this a good season,” she said. One of the biggest factors in making this a successful season will be the play of senior forward Emily Creachbaum. Creachbaum was selected as an all-MIAA player each of the last two seasons, making her the first Belle to be so honored. Bellina expects Creachbaum to be a vocal leader in the locker room.”Emily is a very focused player,” Bellina said. “She has a hand on what everyone on this team is doing and she’s keeping them focused.”Creachbaum is not the only Belle that earned hardware last season. Senior guard Katie Boyce earned the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year award, a feat made more impressive by the fact that she is only 5-foot-2.The Belles also expect to have major contributions from their three freshmen, guards Alison Tessler and Bernadette Broderick and forward/center Abbey Baum.