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SMC Basketball

Belles claim victory over Alma on Senior Day

| Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saint Mary’s capitalized on turnovers and strong defense to break out of an early deadlock against Alma and come away with a 72-61 victory Saturday on Senior Day.

The Belles (7-16, 5-9) and the Scots (0-24, 0-15 MIAA) traded baskets for most of the first half, but neither team gained a significant edge. Alma shot well from beyond the arc, making four of its nine three-point attempts, while Saint Mary’s created several easy baskets.

There were six ties and 14 lead changes in the first half alone. Neither team led by more than three points until the final two minutes of the opening half, when senior guard Shanlynn Bias stole the ball on consecutive possessions, and the Belles took a 39-33 lead into halftime.

“The first half was back and forth a lot,” Irish coach Jennifer Henley said. “They had some key turnovers at the end that we were able to convert into points, which gave us a little cushion.”

Saint Mary’s opened the second half strong, with a 15-4 run, elevating its lead to a game-high 17 points midway through the half.  Then, the Scots stopped making their shots while the Belles continued to push their transition game, extending their lead, which Henley said she attributed in part to 12 second-half steals and Alma’s 26 total turnovers.

Scots junior guard Mallory Pruett, who had 19 points in the contest, led the comeback charge for Alma. Though she cut the lead to six with under four minutes to play, Saint Mary’s sophomore forward Krista Knapke had two consecutive put-backs, contributing to the Belles’ 44 points in the paint and securing the eventual 72-61 win.

Three players provided all but nine of the Belles’ points. Junior forward Ariana Paul finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, Knapke had a career-high 24 points and eight rebounds, and Bias also recorded a career-high with 22 points and six steals on her Senior Day.

Henley said defense was another key to the Belles’ success.

“[Paul, Knapke, and Bias] did very well for us on offense,” she said. “But, what impressed me more is how our team played defensively. Our team stood its ground. Winning on Senior Day is always special.  You want to send out your seniors on a positive note and this team did that.”

The Belles now turn their attention to their game against Olivet, which stands at second in the MIAA standings after losing only once in its last 16 games. The Comets (20-3, 12-2) narrowly beat Saint Mary’s on a last-second shot in a 70-68 win on Jan. 22.

“We need to focus on their inside game and slow down their guards in transition,” Henley said. “We know we can compete with them.”

The matchup against Olivet, the second-to-last of the year for Saint Mary’s, will take place Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Angela Athletic Facility.



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