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SMC Basketball:Team looks to improve MIAA mark at home

Meaghan Veselik | Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Belles picked up an important victory Saturday afternoon over an MIAA opponent, sparked by a revamped defense anchored by junior captain Erin Newsom.

The 71-39 win over Kalamazoo Saturday gave Saint Mary’s the boost it needed to move up in MIAA standings. With a conference record of 6-8, Saint Mary’s moved into a tie for fourth place with Adrian, Alma and Olivet.

The Belles play tonight against Adrian at 7:30. in Angela Athletic Center.

“At the Kalamazoo game we communicated and worked well together as a team on defense, and it enabled us to pick up easy steals, which led to a stronger offense,” Newsom said.

On Saturday, the Belles knocked down 44.8 percent of their field goals and 57.1 percent of their free throws while grabbing 46 rebounds.

The Belles’ chief focus this season has been improving their inconsistent defense and low rebounding numbers.

Newsom, the Belles captain, is central to their effort on the boards. Newsom not only leads the team with 186 rebounds this season, but also is second in scoring with 242 points.

Belles coach Jenn Henley said Newsom has also improved on defense.

“We have really been working with Erin on her post defense this season and have seen great improvements to this point,” Henley said. “I think she presents some defensive problems for opponents because of her shooting range and how well she runs the floor.”

Belles junior guard Katie Rashid credits Newsom with being reliable under the basket.

“Erin has always been one of the leading rebounders for us,” Rashid said. “It is nice to know that if we take a shot from the perimeter we will have somebody inside fighting for the rebound.”

This season isn’t the first in which Newsom has been a key contributor for Saint Mary’s. In her freshman season, she grabbed 161 rebounds and scored 240 points. She proved herself again last season when she ended the year with 212 rebounds and 281 points. Newsom was named to the MIAA second team last season.

“I don’t know how I have improved this season, if I even have at all, but I do know that with each new season I have to learn and adapt to a new team, just like any other player does,” Newsom said. “So I don’t know if I am a better player each year, but my role has changed depending on what our team needs each new season.”

This season, Newsom has had the opportunity to play with her sister, freshman forward Becky Newsom.

“Coming in as a freshman and having Erin here has made it a much easier transition to college, both with basketball and school,” Becky Newsom said. “As teammates we push each other to do better in practice. She is a great leader for our team. She knows when to be serious and when to have fun.”

To take down Adrian, Saint Mary’s will need Erin Newsom’s rebounding and newly polished defensive presence.

“Our focus is still on team defense and rebounds,” Henley said. “Both Adrian and Olivet are solid teams that present a challenge for us. The last time we played Adrian, we did not have a great performance in the first half.”

Rashid agreed that the Belles must concentrate on defense to beat Adrian.

“At times we have played great team defense and other times we have struggled,” Rashid said. “We have been working on our communication on defense in order to improve as a team. I think our game on Saturday was a good indication of how well we are capable of playing on defense if we communicate with each other.”

But Newsom is not satisfied, saying the squad still needs to improve at getting stops.

“To be honest we have been playing inconsistently as a team, especially on the defensive end,” Newsom said. “I don’t doubt that our team is capable of beating any team we come up against, we have the players to do it, we just need to really focus on our team defense and have the same intensity as we did Saturday versus Kalamazoo.”

The conference showdown against the Bulldogs tonight is the Belles’ penultimate MIAA matchup.

“I hope that we build off of Saturday’s win and use it to win our last two conference games this week,” Newsom said.  “These next two games against Adrian and Olivet are crucial to the conference rankings, and we’d really like to host the first round on our home court.”


Alison Kessler is 12 points away from tying the school record for most career points.