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SMC Basketball

Saint Mary’s wins third straight game

| Thursday, December 4, 2014

Saint Mary’s opened conference play at home with a 64-61 win against Alma on Wednesday night, the team’s third win a row.

The Belles (3-3, 1-0 MIAA) and the Scots (2-3, 0-1 MIAA) both attacked the rim early, trading points on both ends of the court over the first five minutes of the game. However, the Belles shored up their defense, prompting an 11-0 run that led to a 19-8 advantage over the visitors. The Scots fired back shortly after, narrowing the lead to within five as the teams returned to trading baskets.

The game was contested in the paint, with Saint Mary’s taking a slight lead in rebounds with 38 to Alma’s 34. Senior guard and captain Ariana Paul led the way on the boards for the Belles with 15 rebounds of her own, including 10 on the defensive end. She added 12 points and seven assists on the evening, earning her third double-double on the season.

Paul’s night crowned what Belles coach Jennifer Henley described as an emotionally satisfying night for Saint Mary’s.

“Beating Alma on the opening night of conference play is always a good feeling,” Henley said. “These two teams battled to the end.”

The Belles established a 12-point lead in the opening five minutes of the second half, before weathering an aggressive Alma counterattack. The squad clung to its lead, even as Alma came within three points on a number of occasions.

Henley attributed the Scots’ near comeback to their possession game.

“A big part of Alma’s run was due to our turnovers,” she said. “We had some poor decision-making in the heat of the game that led to some easy points for Alma. We missed too many free throws that kept the game close as well. I think our defense did just enough to secure that win — but we will need to do a lot more as we face Trine.”

The Belles have begun to prepare to face the conference rival Thunder as exams loom. Henley said the team’s spirits remain high as the season grows more hectic.

“I think this is a crazy time for everyone as we open up MIAA play, prepare for finals and have another holiday season upon us,” she said. “I believe our morale is good, but I know we do have a lot of academic stress upon us. We will work to keep our focus as we prepare for the next stretch of games prior to finals.”

The Belles resume conference play Saturday when they travel to Angola, Indiana, to face the Thunder at 3 p.m.

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