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SMC Basketball: Belles visit Tri-State for must-win contest

Kevin Brennan | Friday, January 21, 2005

With Wednesday’s 64-63 win over Kalamazoo, the Belles moved into a three-way tie with Kalamazoo and Tri-State for fourth place in the MIAA. Saint Mary’s will visit Tri-State Saturday at 1 p.m., looking to further cement its place in the conference. The Belles view the contest as a must-win game.”This game is even more important than the last one,” guard Allison Kessler said. “We are currently in a three-way tie. Hopefully, a win Saturday can help us come up and be alone in fourth place.”With the regular season winding down, each successive game makes the postseason picture a little clearer. The Belles have made it a priority to finish the regular season in front of Tri-State and Kalamazoo.”Our goal is to finish fourth because then we get to host our first-round game in the conference tournament,” Kessler said.In addition, Saint Mary’s knows if it finishes fourth, the team will not have to face any of the conference’s three dominant programs – Albion, Calvin, and Hope – until the second round of the MIAA tournament. Standing in the way of the Belles’ goals on Saturday will be an offensively explosive Tri-State squad. The Thunder top the conference in scoring, putting up an impressive 79.6 points per game. Senior center Nicki Bergman leads the Tri-State attack, averaging 12.9 points per contest. “They are a very up-tempo team,” Kessler said. “They like to push the ball and shoot a lot of three’s.”The Thunder defense has not been quite as effective. Tri-State full court presses its opponent the entire game, but ranks last in the conference in team defense. The Thunder surrender 87.3 points per game. “We just want to break their press and get easy shots – get some layups,” Kessler said. “We want to match their tempo and try to slow them down as much as possible.” The Belles did an excellent job of this the last time these two teams clashed. On Dec. 11, Saint Mary’s defeated the Thunder 95-83 at the Angela Athletic Center. Emily Creachbaum led the way for the Belles, scoring 23 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Saint Mary’s hopes for a similar result Saturday. The team’s final conference standing might just depend on it.