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SMC Basketball: Belles travel to Alma

Dan Cooper | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

After a big win over Adrian last Saturday, Saint Mary’s travels to Alma, Mich. today to face the Alma Scots in an MIAA match up with tournament implications.

The Belles – 5-4 in the MIAA and 6-10 overall – are currently in a three-way tie with Albion and Olivet for third in the conference. Alma is sixth in the conference at 3-5 and 7-8 overall on the season.

The last time these two teams met, Alma forward Ashley Matuzak paced her team with 27 points and a contest-high 12 rebounds. Saint Mary’s won that game at home by a score of 72-60.

“Ashley Matuzak is a very good player. She creates problems for us defensively,” Saint Mary’s head coach Jennifer Henley said.

In order to neutralize Matuzak, Belles freshman center Anna Kammrath and sophomore forward Erin Newsom will need to play well.

Newsom has been steadily improving throughout the season and is averaging eight rebounds a game. Kammrath has become a dominant presence in the paint and is also pulling down an average of eight rebounds per contest.

“We are going to have to give more help on [Matuzak] when she attacks the basket and find her earlier in transition defense,” Henley said.

Kammrath and Newsom have been keys to Saint Mary’s recent success. After a rocky start the Belles have turned their season around.

“I think our early struggles were due to three factors: adjusting to a new coach, playing an incredibly tough non-conference schedule and our overall youth,” Henley said.

The Belles roster of 15 players includes only three upperclassman. These elders – most notably junior guard Alison Kessler – have been key contributors throughout the season. But the Belles have found success when their younger players came into their own.

Having other contributors has allowed the Belles to spread the ball around and alleviate the pressure that opposing defenses devoted to stopping Kessler and senior guard Bridget Lipke.

“[When] more people contribute to our offense, it really takes the pressure off Bridget and Alison,” Henley said. “We are no longer a team that relies solely on our points coming from these two guards.”

Henley said that she has emphasized the importance of establishing an inside game.

“We have improved [our inside game] with the help of players like Anna and Erin,” she said.

Alma has lost its last two games – against Olivet and Hope – by a total of 35 points, but its has not lost more than two consecutive games this year.