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Belles split in tournament play

Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, November 21, 2005

The Saint Mary’s basketball season got off to a rocky start this weekend in a 68-51 loss to Hanover, as the Belles shot 17-of-50 from the floor in the first game of the Hanover Tip-Off Classic.

The Belles started the game off slow, but managed to gain some momentum in the first half to go ahead 26-24 at halftime. The second half was a different story.

Facing Hanover’s 2-2-1 full- court press, Saint Mary’s was unable to move the ball up the floor, leading to a 9-0 Panthers run. After taking the lead at the beginning of the half, Hanover never looked back.

Hanover controlled the boards, as the Panthers outrebounded the Belles 46-to-31. Hanover also had twice as many steals – 14 to 7 – and eight fewer turnovers in general.

Despite the statistics, head coach Steve Bender was still thoroughly impressed with Saint Mary’s effort in the game.

“The final score was not at all indicative of the game itself,” Bender said.

But Bender was able to pinpoint some problems with his team’s play in the first game of the regular season.

“We just were not able to deal with the press, and that hurt us early in the second half. We also weren’t waiting for the right shots, we were shooting much too quickly,” Bender said.

Point guard Bridget Lipke had 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists to lead the Belles in a 65-61 upset of Franklin College in the second game of the Hanover Tip-Off Classic. Franklin College was last year’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champion and a participant in last year’s Division III tournament.

Lipke’s offensive presence helped Saint Mary’s with the win, but more important was her defensive play. She held Franklin guard Lindsey Robertson – a returning senior and last year’s HCAC Most Valuable Player – to 5-of-15 shooting. Lipke also forced Robertson to take shots from three-point range, as 11 of her 15 field goal attempts were from beyond the three-point arc.

Coach Bender was proud of his team in the game against Franklin.

“We really played well against a team that was an honorable mention for the Division III poll,” Bender said. “We had a lot more defensive intensity. We stopped trying to force the game; we let the game come to us this time.”

Lipke was not the only player to contribute in the win against Franklin. Forward Allison Kessler led the Belles in points and rebounds, scoring 17 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes. Saint Mary’s bench helped in the win with a combined nine points and eight rebounds.

The Belles’ defense also stepped up in the second game of the tournament, forcing Franklin to shoot 43 percent from the floor, in addition to shooting only nine for 27 from 3-point range.

The game included a second half rally by Franklin, who was down 37-23 at the half and shot 16-of-28 in the second half to pull close to Saint Mary’s, whose second half shooting percentage of 35 percent allowed the comeback.