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SMC Basketball: Belles need overtime, top Britons

Joe Meixell | Thursday, February 15, 2007

After a 10-foot jumper by Albion guard Jessica Babcock sent the game to overtime, Saint Mary’s took over in the bonus period, winning 71-63 Wednesday at the Angela Athletic Center.

The Belles dominated the overtime period, scoring on six of their 10 possessions while forcing four turnovers after regulation.

Belles guard Allison Kessler gave Saint Mary’s a 59-57 lead with only 40 seconds left after nailing a running layup before Babcock’s game-tying shot.

The win not only clinched the No. 3 seed for the Belles in the MIAA tournament, but it also avenged Saint Mary’s (11-11, 10-5 MIAA) 72-69 overtime loss Jan. 17 at Albion (13-10, 8-7).

“That loss really served as motivation,” Saint Mary’s coach Jennifer Henley said. “That made this win that much sweeter.”

The game was far more heavily contested than the final score indicated, with 16 ties and neither team leading by more than five points during regulation.

Kessler once again provided the offensive spark for the Belles throughout the game, scoring a game-high 23 points and adding eight assists. Sophomore Erin Newsom crashed the boards for her fifth double-double of the year with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Senior Bridget Lipke added 18 points in the winning effort.

Albion held a 35-31 halftime lead after Britons guard Amy Aemisegger hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Belles overcame the deficit and claimed a 57-52 lead with 5:25 remaining. Albion chipped away at the lead, however, and tied the game at 57-57 with 1:49 remaining.

The Belles will conclude their regular season Saturday with a home game against second- place Hope. Although neither team can change seeding based on the result, Saint Mary’s will look to show its improvement from their last meeting when the Flying Dutchmen dismantled the Belles 67-42.

The third-seeded Saint Mary’s squad will then host sixth-place Alma in the first round of the MIAA Tournament Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Saint Mary’s won 10 conference games this season, the most ever for its program, and will host only the second MIAA playoff game this season.

“I think the regular season shows how far we’ve come,” Henley said. “We just need to carry this high-level of play into the tournament when it counts.”