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SMC Basketball: Saint Mary’s opens season

Mike Ginocchio | Wednesday, November 13, 2013



With the start of the season comes the opportunity to improve upon the previous year. For the Belles, that journey begins when they travel to De Pere, Wis., for this weekend’s St. Norbert Tournament.

With a young team in the 2012-13 season, Saint Mary’s finished 5-20 after graduating one of the highest-scoring classes in school history. Going into this season, Belles head coach Jennifer Henley said last year’s struggles will serve her team well.

“From a coaching perspective, we knew last season was going to be a little rough and very much a year spent learning,” Henley said. “We needed our young players to gain experience and they did exactly that. The team we are putting together this season has come back stronger and more confident in their abilities and we are anxious to get started. We have a solid group of freshmen who will contribute right away and continue to get better with each practice.”

The Belles will look to rely on the play of experienced veterans like senior guard Shanlynn Bias, who was named to the All-MIAA Second Team last season. In addition, Saint Mary’s will benefit from continuity, as the returning core of players accounted for more than 80 percent of the team’s scoring and roughly 79 percent of its total rebounding last season.

However, for things to go better, Henley stressed the importance of tightening up defensively.

“Every season we want to be better than the previous one,” Henley said. “Right now we have to become a better defensive team, especially in the transition game. As we head into the weekend, that will be key for us along with rebounding and limiting our turnovers.”

The Belles will benefit from a good test this weekend, as they will face off against Wisconsin-Whitewater in their first game. Last season, the Warhawks finished as the national runner-up in the NCAA Division III Championship game.

“We are going to have our hands full with Whitewater,” Henley said. “They are a veteran team with a lot of experience. This will be a great challenge for us that we are all looking forward to.”

On Saturday, Saint Mary’s will face the winner of Friday’s matchup between Northland and St. Norbert. The Lumberjills are fresh off a 6-18 season, while the Green Knights return 12 players from last year’s 15-9 team.

The Belles travel to De Pere, Wis., on Friday to take on the Warhawks at 6 p.m., before concluding play in the tournament Saturday.

Contact Mike Ginocchio at [email protected]