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Belles win in dramatic fashion

Bill Brink and Dan Cooper | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Saint Mary’s took the lead in the final minute to pull out a nail-biter against Anderson University 72-69 Monday.

With 41 seconds left, Belles junior guard Alison Kessler took control and drove the lane, drew contact and sunk the layup. Kessler, who was 6-for-6 from behind the line in the second half, sank her seventh free throw of the game to put the Belles ahead 70-69.

“The help-side defense wasn’t paying attention, so I drove the lane,” Kessler said.

The free throw gave her 26 points to go with five assists on the night, including a three-pointer with 1:27 remaining that tied the score 67-67.

Following Kessler’s free throw, the Ravens got a shot off in the final seconds, but the jumper was no good and Belles freshman Anna Krammrath pulled down the rebound to secure the game.

“We kept our composure,” Belles head coach Jennifer Henley said. “Kessler’s our bread and butter, but the defense and key rebounds gave us an edge.”

Henley was also impressed by Krammrath’s play.

“That rebound was huge for us,” she said. “That sealed the deal. That’s a freshman coming through.”

The Belles bench came up big, filling in for starters who saw a lot of playing time over the weekend. Sophomore forward Erin Newsom scored 10 points in just 22 minutes and grabbed five rebounds. Krammrath brought down six boards in her 19 minutes on the court.

The first half was slow-paced and low scoring. The Belles could not get their offense clicking, and the Ravens’ constant movement penetrated their defense. Saint Mary’s went into the locker room down 34-28.

“We started off rough,” senior guard Bridget Lipke said. “We’ve had three games in four days, our legs were tired, but we pushed through and helped each other out.”

The Belles looked sharp after the break to get back in the game. Henley credits the turnaround to executing an offensive strategy based on one-on-one isolation.

“We tried to get more four-out, one-in situations,” Henley said. “We looked to attack the basket and drive and draw fouls.”

The Belles defense also locked down in the second half. The man-to-man pressure was much tighter than in the first half and wreaked havoc with the Ravens’ offensive setup.

“We looked to trap on ball screens,” Henley said. “We knew [Anderson guard Melenda Hawthorne] was a great shooter, and we wanted to make sure she didn’t get looks.”

Hawthorne finished with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Raven center Stacie Jennings

was a presence on the glass, grabbing nine rebounds to go with her 13 points.

Overall, Henley was pleased with her team’s performance.

“I’m real proud,” she said. “It was a tough stretch, and a good opener at home.”

The Belles (1-2) hope to follow up their win as they host Manchester College tonight at 7 p.m.