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Belles headed to semifinals

Michael Bryan | Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Saint Mary’s made history Tuesday night, defeating Alma 66-54 to advance to the MIAA semifinals for the first time since joining the conference in 1998.

The third-seeded Belles and the sixth-seeded Scots played a very close first half in the first round of the MIAA Tournament, with neither team getting more than a seven-point advantage. The Belles closed the first half on a 14-7 run to take a 30-29 lead into the locker room.

Saint Mary’s slowly began building that lead in the second half, pushing to 50-45 with 10:32 remaining. Alma was unable to make up the deficit, and the Belles pulled away for the 12-point victory.

“It’s been great to make it to the semifinals for the first time,” Belles coach Jennifer Henley said. “Tonight was a great night with a lot of firsts.”

In addition to the team’s record-breaking trip to the semifinals, several Saint Mary’s players broke individual records in the victory.

Sophomore forward Erin Newsom pulled down an MIAA Tournament-record 21 rebounds to go along with 14 points, her sixth double-double of the season.

Senior Bridget Lipke also set an MIAA Tournament record, dishing out 11 assists in an incredible performance.

Junior Alison Kessler led the Belles with 20 points, and in doing so set the Saint Mary’s single season scoring record. Kessler’s 484 points so far this season surpassed the 12-year-old record of 476 set by Jennie Taubenheim.

Alma forward Ashley Matuzak led all scorers with 21 points, and junior Megan Hoblet added 15 points in the losing effort.

The Belles will travel to face second-seeded Hope in Holland, Mich. in the semifinals Thursday night. Saint Mary’s faced Hope twice this season, struggling on the road in a 67-42 loss Nov. 28 but playing the Flying Dutchmen closer in a 79-71 home loss Saturday. Hope is currently ranked fifth in the nation among Div. III schools and is the defending MIAA champion.

“I think this win will give us some momentum,” Henley said. “We showed we could play with them last game, and we hope to go on the road and get it done this time.”