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Belles defeat Adrian in conference matchup

Kevin Brennan | Thursday, January 13, 2005

Staring at a 6-8 record, Saint Mary’s discovered composure and poise at the perfect moment.In the second half of a highly contested, must-win game, the Belles came up with all the right plays at the right times to secure a 66-61 victory over the Bulldogs of Adrian College on Wednesday night. “It definitely wasn’t easy,” Belles coach Suzanne Bellina said. “We really gutted this one out.”Saint Mary’s jumped out to an early 13-3 advantage and led for the entire first half. Freshman guard Allison Kessler hit a lay-up as time expired to give the Belles a 30-22 intermission lead. Senior forward Emily Creachbaum had 12 points and five rebounds in the first half.In the second period, the Bulldogs slowly chipped away at the Saint Mary’s lead. Adrian applied full-court pressure and developed the offensive rhythm it was missing in the first half. Freshman forward Amanda Rainsberger led the Adrian charge, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds. With 11:22 remaining in the game, Rainsberger hit a turnaround jumper in the lane and was fouled by Belles center Maureen Bush. Rainsberger hit the free throw to make the score 39-37. But Creachbaum immediately responded on the other end with a layup, extending the Saint Mary’s lead back to four. This marked the beginning of a second-half trend. Time and time again, Adrian pulled within one basket of the Belles, only to have Saint Mary’s immediately score on its next possession. Creachbaum, Bush, Kessler and Bridget Boyce all had clutch baskets that kept the Bulldogs out of striking distance. “We really did a great job of staying calm and making the plays when they needed to be made,” Bellina said. With 1:10 left, Adrian guard Jesse Borowiak hit a baseline jumper to bring the Bulldogs to within one point. Saint Mary’s responded as it had throughout the second half. On the next possession, the Belles went to Creachbaum, who coolly sank two foul shots to push the lead to 60-57. The Belles closed out the game with flawless free throw shooting down the stretch. Creachbaum, Boyce and Bridget Lipke combined to go 6-of-6 from the line in the final minute, ensuring the win.Creachbaum led Saint Mary’s in the winning effort. The Belles’ leading scorer on the season had 24 points and 10 rebounds. The forward carried Saint Mary’s offensively, making up for the fact that the team shot only 33 percent from the field. “[Creachbaum] is so solid and consistent,” Bellina said. “She just always gets the job done.”With the win, Saint Mary’s moves to 7-8 overall and 2-4 in the MIAA. Bellina stressed the importance of the victory as the Belles try to make up ground in the conference. “We were playing the top teams for the past week or so,” she said. “This stretch, starting tonight, is so important for us.Four of the bottom teams in the conference were 1-4 heading into tonight. We wanted to start a drive back to the middle of the pack with a win tonight.”Saint Mary’s will look to continue to move up in the standings on Saturday with a road contest against Alma College.