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SMC Basketball: Belles look to face Hope

Peter Steiner | Thursday, January 26, 2012

With many Saint Mary’s basketball alumnae in the crowd, the Belles will try to accomplish Saturday what the former players only did once in the last seven seasons — defeat highly-ranked conference opponent Hope.

The Belles face the No. 20 Flying Dutch in an attempt to extend their winning streak to three after Wednesday’s victory over Trine. The school will put on a special Saint Mary’s Alumnae game before tip-off in an event Belles coach Jenn Henley said will improve home-court advantage.

“Our alumnae game takes place before our game so I know we’ll have a lot of our former players back and here to watch us,” Henley said. “It’s going to be a really good atmosphere.”

With the added crowd support, the Belles will look to avenge a 74-56 loss to the Flying Dutch earlier this season. To do so, the Belles will have to overcome a Hope team that is second overall in the MIAA in both scoring offense and defense. While the Belles are facing a tough opponent, Henley said they are treating Hope like any other conference team.

“I think [the MIAA conference teams] are all big opponents,” Henley said. “I don’t think one is any more important than another at this point. We are going to prepare like we normally do for the game.”

The Belles outrebounded Trine by 20 in Wednesday’s win. Henley identified dominance on the boards as one key to the game against Hope Saturday.

“It’s really more about us continuing to box out, controlling the boards at both ends, creating second shots for ourselves and playing great team defense,” Henley said.

A victory Saturday would bring Saint Mary’s back to an overall .500 record and solidify the Belles in the fourth spot in the MIAA with only six games left in the regular season. With only the top four teams set to advance to the MIAA playoffs, Henley said the Belles need their core group of seniors to lead the way.

“These five seniors have been doing great things since they have arrived on campus their freshman year,” Henley said. “They are a very talented group. We go as they go. They are certainly our leaders and need to continue to be so as we go down the stretch here.”

The Belles will tip-off against Hope in front of a crowd of former players Saturday at 3 p.m.