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SMC Basketball: Third try Hopes to be charm

Michael Bryan | Thursday, February 22, 2007

Saint Mary’s last faced conference rival Hope less than a week ago, falling 79-71 in a tight regular season game at home. In today’s conference tournament matchup, much more will be at stake – a place in the MIAA championship.

No. 3 seed Saint Mary’s (12-12, 11-6 MIAA) will travel to Holland, Mich., to No. 2 seed Hope. The Flying Dutch (22-3, 13-3) is ranked No. 5 nationally in Division III and is looking to defend last year’s MIAA title.

The Belles advanced to the semifinals last Tuesday with a historic win at home over Alma. St. Mary’s 66-54 win propelled the team past the first round of the MIAA Tournament for the first time since joining the conference.

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. 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.

Hope advanced to the semifinals with a solid performance at home, routing Tri-State 85-61. In a complete team effort, all 15 Flying Dutch players scored and grabbed at least one rebound in the win. The Flying Dutch shot 50 percent from the field for the game and posted a strong defensive effort with 15 steals.

The win extended Hope’s streak of semifinals appearances to 13 in a row, an MIAA record.

Saint Mary’s and Hope met twice in the regular season, with the Flying Dutch winning both games. The first meeting in November was the conference opener for both teams, and Hope easily defeated the Belles at home 67-42. The second game, the Belles 79-71 loss Feb. 17, was a much closer contest.