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Belles split pair of nonconference games

On Thursday and Sunday, the Saint Mary’s basketball team split a pair of non-conference games, ultimately moving to 3-2 on the season. The Belles slammed Illinois Tech 82-66 on Thursday night but lost to Defiance 70-60 on Sunday. 

The Belles rebounded from their first loss of the season and rode a dominant middle two quarters Thursday night. Down 20-14 after 10 minutes, Saint Mary’s outscored the Scarlet Hawks 52-29 in the second and third quarters. Senior guard Maddie Rzepka led the squad with 18 points, while freshman guard Nicole Connelly came off the bench to drop 15 points. Saint Mary’s won the game on the boards, out-rebounding Illinois Tech 60-37. Junior forwards Athena Samson and Anne Goralczyk combined for 26 rebounds. Samson added 12 points for the double-double.

The Belles took the lead for good late in the second quarter. After Illinois Tech tied the game at 27-27, both teams entered a dry spell. Neither team scored for 2 minutes and 27 seconds. But with 3:52 remaining, Goralczyk sank a jump shot, and Saint Mary’s ripped off 10 straight points. That helped grant the Belles a 37-29 halftime advantage. The Scarlet Hawks closed within 43-41 in the second half, but another late-quarter surge helped the Belles put the game away. Over a 2:07 stretch, Saint Mary’s notched another 10-0 run to extend their lead to 64-46. Illinois Tech never challenged again, as the Belles improved to 3-1.

On Sunday, the Belles couldn’t quite pull off their fourth win in five games. Up two at halftime, a paltry shooting performance doomed Saint Mary’s in the 10-point loss. Samson added another double-double, going for 14 points and 13 rebounds in the contest. Sophomore forward Julia Schutz joined the double-double party with a monster performance, pouring in 18 points and grabbing 12 boards. She also blocked three shots. However, a 5-31 shooting effort from three-point range contributed to an poor overall 30.4% shooting percentage, a level of offensive inefficiency too much to overcome.

The Belles maintained a slim advantage throughout the first 2.5 quarters, extending their lead to 42-36 just under halfway through the third quarter. However, Taylor Steinbrunner made a pair of triples in a 27-second span to knto the score. The Yellow Jackets added a few more baskets to end the period on a 12-2 scoring run and take a 48-42 advantage. Saint Mary’s didn’t score for the final 5 minutes and 24 seconds of the quarter.

In the final 10 minutes, the Belles never got closer than four points, trailing by about ten most of the way. A brief surge brought them to a 59-54 deficit with 2:29 left, but that was as close as it got. Saint Mary’s succumbed, 70-60.

The Belles play Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Anderson in a non-conference game. They start conference play after Thanksgiving.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu.

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