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SMC Basketball: Belles earn senior day win with perfect day at line

Peter Steiner | Monday, February 20, 2012

Led by five starting seniors, the Belles finished their regular season Saturday with a 68-49 victory over Kalamazoo.

By scoring 33 points off Kalamazoo turnovers and shooting a perfect 21-for-21 from the free-throw line, the Belles (9-7, 13-12 MIAA) turned in an impressive Senior Day performance at the Angela Athletic Facility.

The home victory was a fantastic finish to the regular season, Belles coach Jenn Henley said.

“I think Saturday’s game was a really good game for us,” Henley said. “I thought we played very well on both ends of the floor. I think it was a great way for our seniors to end their careers at home here.”

Tied at 17 midway through the first half, it appeared as if the last-place Hornets (2-14, 4-21) would give the Belles a competitive game. But a 15-2 run by Saint Mary’s near the end of the first half gave the Belles a big lead they never relinquished.

The Belles’ dominance continued through the second half, and after the 17:47 mark, the Belles’ lead never dropped below seven. The Belles’ ability to force turnovers and convert them into points proved to be the biggest difference, Henley said.

“Defensively, we caused a lot of problems for Kalamazoo,” Henley said. “We had 16 steals, which I thought was great. It was a good way to go out defensively. I also thought our transition game looked good offensively. Again, when you hold a team to 49 points, you have done some good stuff.”

The Belles’ perfect 21 free throw shots set a new MIAA record previously held by Calvin. Nine of those foul shots came from senior forwards Kelley Murphy and Jessica Centa, who led the Belles with 19 and 12 points, respectively.

Murphy, Centa and senior guards Maggie Ronan, Patsy Mahoney and Katie Sullivan led Saint Mary’s to a fourth-place finish in the MIAA this year, but they have also made significant contributions to Belles’ basketball over the past four years, Henley said.

“These five have really helped put the program on the map,” Henley said. “When they came in as freshmen, they were a big reason why we beat Hope, who was ranked No. 1 (Division III) in the country. We swept Calvin and finished second in the league that year, and they had a big say in that. We’ve just been able to build off that over the last four years. I think that every single one of them has done remarkable things both on and off the court here at Saint Mary’s.”

Having earned the fourth and final seed in the MIAA tournament, the Belles will face off against No. 5 Calvin (15-1, 23-1) in the first round of the conference tournament. The Knights are familiar foes for the Belles, who defeated Henley’s squad 73-52 on Feb. 15.

“Neither team is going to have anything new,” Henley said. “We are going to be very familiar with Calvin. Our preparation is going to be the same. We just have to find a way to put 40 minutes together instead of just 20, which seems to be the case over the last two times we’ve played them.”

The Belles will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday night to face Calvin in the first round of the MIAA tournament.

Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]