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SMC Basketball: SMC rests, prepares for Calvin

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 2, 2007

It would be tough to imagine – given the nature of the team’s practice Thursday – the Belles are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and preparing for a road game at Calvin Saturday.

After playing a version of the childhood game around-the world, Saint Mary’s (9-10, 8-4 MIAA) engaged in a free-throw competition. Each successive shot made allowed the player to advance one basket.

Reach the end and relax until time expires.

Fall short and run sprints.

Shortly thereafter, cupcakes were distributed and as “Happy Birthday” was sung to forward Jane Fleming, who turned 19. After that, the team was dismissed.

“They’ve been playing hard,” head coach Jennifer Henley said. “We don’t want them to get burned out.”

The Belles are averaging 78.5 points over their last four games, 12 points above their season average. Leading the offense has been forward/center Erin Newsom. The sophomore – last week’s MIAA Player of the Week – has averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in the four-game stretch.

“Newsom has come full circle on defense,” Henley said. “But unless you’re looking for it, you won’t notice it.

“We’ve scored 83 and 81 points our last two games, and it’s not all [guard] Alison [Kessler].”

Kessler – the Belles’ leading scorer – has not been the focal point of Saint Mary’s offense during the streak. Aside from Newsom, guard Bridget Lipke has averaged 13.8 points per game in the four-game stretch. Henley said center Anna Kammrath has also improved over the season.

“Anna really stepped up and worked her butt off,” Henley said. “She’s incredibly coachable, she’s in great shape and she has a good understanding of the game. We want to work on shot selection and get her stronger in the paint, but she’s played very well.

“Neither Kammrath or Newsome were starting at the beginning of the season. That shows you how hard they worked.”

Regardless of her lessened impact on the team’s offense, Kessler hasn’t slowed down. She dropped a career-high 33 points Wednesday against Olivet, and is now 28 points shy of 1,000 for her career.

“As only a junior, that’s amazing,” Henley said. “She’ll get it. The only question is whether she’ll get it at home or on the road.”

Kammrath and Newsom will have their hands full against Calvin’s inside game. Forwards Lisa Winkle – who averages 9.4 boards per game – and Marcia Harris seal up the inside.

Calvin has made 47.4 percent of its field goals and 37 percent from three-point range, a facet of their game that will take away the option of playing a zone defense. Combined with the post play, Calvin poses a potent threat. The way the Belles are playing, however, creates palpable excitement.

“We’re the ones that played them closest, with a one-point loss,” Henley said, referring to the 53-52 Belles loss on Jan. 6. The Belles came a missed free-throw away from forcing overtime.