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Belles fall just short of upset

Joe Meixell | Monday, February 19, 2007

In the regular season finale for both teams, Saint Mary’s made a run at No. 5 Hope, but ultimately fell 79-71 Saturday night at the Angela Athletic facility. The loss dropped the Belles to 11-12 on the season and 10-6 in the MIAA. The Flying Dutchmen, ranked fifth nationally, held off Saint Mary’s to improve to 21-3 overall and 13-3 in the MIAA.Despite going into the game as a major underdog, the Belles kept the game close. After falling behind early, the Belles rallied and cut the lead to 36-33 going into halftime.In the second half, Saint Mary’s went on a 13-2 run and took a 50-48 lead with 11:31 remaining. For the next four-and-a-half minutes, the lead bounced between the two teams, but neither side held a lead of more than three points during the stretch.The Belles held their final lead of the game 60-59 with seven minutes left, but Hope went on a 13-3 run to take its largest advantage of the evening 72-63. The Flying Dutchmen hit seven of their final eight free throws to seal the deal. After the game, Belles coach Jennifer Henley was pleased with her team’s performance.”We proved on Saturday that we can compete with the top teams in the country,” she said. “We have had the great opportunity to play ranked teams in our conference this season.”Junior guard Allison Kessler led the team in scoring with 28 points, and sophomore forward Erin Newsome contributed 12 points and pulled down a game-high seven rebounds. Sophomore center Nicole Beier added 12 points off the bench. The Flying Dutchmen displayed a balanced offensive attack that saw five players score in double digits. Senior Forward Ellen Wood led Hope in scoring and rebounding, hitting seven of her 12 shots for 20 points and pulling down 15 boards for the double-double. “Ellen Wood is a tall, veteran post player,” said Henley. “She was on the National Championship [Hope] team [last season], so she knows what it takes to be successful.”St. Mary’s first opponent in the MIAA tournament will be Alma, over whom the Belles own a perfect 2-0 record.”Alma is a well coached team, and they play a triangle-and-two defense that has given us trouble,” Henley said. “I’m glad we’re at home because our crowd has been so supportive all year, we’ll be ready – that’s for sure.”The third-seeded Belles will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. against sixth-seeded Alma Tuesday night at the Angela Athletic Facility.