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SMC Basketball: Kessler wins MIAA honor

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Allison Kessler’s hard work for the Belles has paid off as the sophomore shooting guard was named the MIAA Player of the Week Monday.

“I was happy and excited when I found out I had won this,” Kessler said. “But I’m [more glad] that someone from our school finally won it.”

Kessler played a crucial role in Saint Mary’s victories last week over Alma (57-55) and Tri-State (58-57). She took control of both games, playing 77 minutes out of a possible 80 and shooting 11-for-24 for 32 points.

Kessler showed the ability to make clutch shots toward the end of games last week. With less than a minute to go in the home win over Alma, Kessler nailed an off-balance shot to give the Belles a three-point lead, and cement the 57-55 win. Likewise, against Tri-State Kessler scored the Belles’ final six points, denying a 13-point second-half comeback by the Thunder.

Despite receiving the conference award this week, Kessler believes her and the Belles’ best effort came against Kalamazoo on Jan. 14.

“The Kalamazoo game was where we really came together as a team,” Kessler said.

The Belles’ 83-73 victory, spurred by Kessler’s career-high 22 points, sparked a stretch in which Saint Mary’s has won four of its last five games, losing only to Adrian on the road by one point Jan. 21.

Downplaying her efforts, Kessler attributed her team’s success this season to its increased defensive mentality.

“We’ve been getting a lot more pressure when we’ve been on defense, forcing bad plays and the other teams [to take] bad shots,” Kessler said. “Getting more pressure has also given us much better looks on offense.”

In the past four games, the Belles’ defense has allowed only 53.8 points per game, an improvement from early this season when the Belles gave up 65 points or more six times in their first 11 games.

The results on the defensive end coincide with head coach Steve Bender’s theme for this season – mental toughness. And Kessler has taken the motto to heart.

Over the past five games, she has averaged 17.2 points and 36 minutes. Kessler has also spearheaded the Belles’ defense, especially with a crucial steal in the closing seconds of last Saturday’s win over Tri-State.

Kessler also showed her ability to adapt this past week when starting point guard Bridget Lipke was injured in the Albion game and Kessler took over. She maintained this role for the next two games in Lipke’s place, leading the Belles to the win over Alma.