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SMC Basketball

Saint Mary’s falls to Kalamazoo on Senior Day

| Monday, February 15, 2016

This past Saturday, Kalamazoo came from behind to defeat Saint Mary’s, 74-66, dashing the Belles’ hopes of getting a conference win on Senior Day.

Senior forward Eleni Shea, who finished the game with 15 points, got the Belles offense going in the first quarter, scoring the first two baskets of the game for Saint Mary’s (1-23, 1-14 MIAA). However, Saint Mary’s struggled with turnovers and offensive execution early, and the Hornets (8-16, 5-10) jumped out to a 19-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Saint Mary’s offense came alive in the second quarter as the Belles went on a run to tie the game at 25 early in the second. With momentum favoring the Belles, Saint Mary’s also began to force Kalamazoo turnovers and taking low percentage shots. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, Saint Mary’s had built a 40-32 lead thanks to a 28-point quarter.

Belles head coach Jennifer Henley said she attributed the second quarter turnaround to a more confident offensive approach.

“I think we just got more aggressive offensively and started to attack the paint,” Henley said. “It was the first time we got to the foul line. We didn’t go any times in the first quarter. Basically, we got our footing, and we were more confident in our offense.”

The Saint Mary’s offense slowed down at the start of the second half as the Belles attempted to work the clock and preserve the lead. After a low scoring quarter, Saint Mary’s lead was cut to just six, 54-48, headed into the final 10 minutes.

Saint Mary’s went cold offensively to start the fourth quarter though, and the Hornets took advantage, tying the game at 58-58 three minutes into the quarter. Saint Mary’s freshman forward Kelsey Ronan answered, putting the Belles back on top, 60-58. The Belles stretched the lead to four, but Kalamazoo responded. Hornet freshman guard Emily Kozal hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one, and junior guard Claire Slaughter scored on Kalamazoo’s next possession to give the Hornets a lead they never relinquished. Saint Mary’s fought until the very end, employing a full-court press and fouling in an effort to extend the game, but these efforts fell short.

Henley said the free throw disparity is what ultimately pushed Kalamazoo past the Belles.

“We put them at the line 42 times, and we only went 12. So there was a clear unbalance in the foul situation, and that’s hard to come back from,” Henley said.

The Hornets shot 34-of-42 from the charity stripe, including a 15-of-17 mark in the fourth quarter, while Saint Mary’s converted on nine of its 12 free-throw attempts.

Though it was another loss in what has been a difficult season for Saint Mary’s, Henley said she was proud of the way her seniors, who suited up for their final home game on Saturday, played this year. Guards Maddie Kohler and Sarah Macius and forwards Krista Knapke and Shea will all finish their careers with the Belles after their final regular-season game next weekend.

“You can’t measure these kids on a scoreboard,” Henley said. “You have to look at them in the whole. Retention in [Division-III] is tough, and these four have stuck together all four years, through ups and downs, and they’re going to be very successful once they leave Saint Mary’s.”

The Belles will finish its season on the road against Albion next Saturday.

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