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SMC Basketball: Belles break streak against Wheaton

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Belles certainly had a full plate over Thanksgiving break, opening a two-week home stand with three games in four days.

Saint Mary’s (2-3) earned its first win in eleven meetings against Wheaton on Wednesday, triumphing 81-78 over the visiting Thunder, before dropping two matches in the Saint Mary’s College Thanksgiving Classic over the weekend. The Belles took a close, 66-63 loss to Otterbein, before No. 21 University of Chicago edged out Saint Mary’s 73-64 on Sunday.

Belles head coach Jen Henley is looking for her squad to step up across the board this season.

“I expect us to have more depth in our program this year,” Henley said. “We need to improve our overall team defense and be more balanced in our offense from last season.”

In its first home game of the season, Saint Mary’s survived a late rally from Wheaton to take home the victory 81-78.

After trading points through the early going, a 24-11 Belles charge late in the first half gave Saint Mary’s a 50-37 lead heading into the locker room. Wheaton hung tough in the second period, tying the contest at 78 with only 39 seconds remaining.

Belles freshman guard Maggie Ronan pulled down an offensive rebound with 27 seconds left, before a crucial foul sent her to the free-throw line. She sunk the first to take a 79-78 lead. After missing the second, Saint Mary’s junior forward Anna Kammrath picked up the most important of her fourteen rebounds on the night. The Belles would not relinquish the lead.

Senior forward Erin Newsom notched a double-double with 22 points against 10 rebounds on the night, while the squad shot 43.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent beyond the arc.

After the holiday, Saint Mary’s dropped both contests of the weekend’s SMC Thanksgiving Classic, opening the tournament with a 66-63 loss to the Cardinals.

Otterbein shot over 55 percent from the floor in the opening half to take a 38-34 lead at the half, while the Belles kept it close by going 13-for-16 from the charity stripe. A pair of field goals from Ronan to open the second tied the game up quickly. The two squads traded the lead seven teams before a Cardinals three-pointer halfway through the second gave them the lead for good.

In its Sunday match against the Maroons, Saint Mary’s kept it close until halfway through the first, in which a 17-4 run for Chicago broke the 15-15 tie. The Maroons would not let up until claiming a 73-64 victory.

Newson repeated her double-double performance adding 10 rebounds to her 20 points. Belles senior forward Nicole Beier tallied a career-high 20 points alongside a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line. Beier led the Belles with 32 points for the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team. She also earned her first ever MIAA Player of the Week Award for her efforts off the bench.

Saint Mary’s has struggled through the early part of the season having been exacerbated by the graduation of an outstanding senior class last spring, notably guard Alison Kessler.

“There certainly was a void to fill after the graduation of Alison,” Henley said. “But every program goes through that transition when seniors graduate. The team has adjusted well.”

The Belles open their MIAA-conference schedule Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Trine at Saint Mary’s Angela Athletic Facility in Notre Dame, Ind.