Belles split conference play 2-2 over winter break
Mannion McGinley | Wednesday, January 18, 2023
As 2022 became 2023 over the College’s winter break, the Saint Mary’s basketball team went 2-4 — 2-2 in conference play.
At the start of the break, the Belles traveled to Michigan to take on the Alma College Scots. To open the game, the Belles led 6-3. Senior guard Maddie Rzepka found freshman guard Nicole Connolly to hit a layup. Rzepka then hit one of her own to take a 12-10 lead. This back-and-forth continued well into the second quarter. The Belles couldn’t maintain this lead, though, and the Scots ran away with the momentum.
By halftime, the Scots led 38-27. Despite a fight from the Belles, they pushed their lead to 13 within the third quarter. Late in the third, sophomore guard Jasmyne Townsend made it a six-point game. But the Scots scored again to bring it to 56-47 heading into the fourth. Despite an ultimate 46-43 rebound advantage from Saint Mary’s, including a 14-9 edge in offensive rebounds, the Scots defeated the Belles, 82-75.
The next matchup was against Franklin. Although the Belles lost again, the margin was much closer. After the first, the Belles were only four points short, losing 20-16. They maintained close scoring the rest of the game behind Rzepka, junior forward Athena Samson and sophomore forward Julia Schutz, who scored 16, 15 and 21 points, respectively. Still, the Belles fell to the Grizzlies, 79-73.
Saint Mary’s last game of 2022 was in Nashville, Tennessee against Berry. Although they lost by eight, the Belles led for the first half of the game. Behind Schutz — who had 23 points, accompanied by Samson and senior guard Nikki Murphy with seven points each — the Belles took an 11-point lead to the locker room. Berry ran away with the game in the second half, though, all but refusing to let the Belles score in the fourth. Again, the Belles fell just short of a win, losing 61-53.
But the new year brought new luck for the Belles; Saint Mary’s went 2-1 over the January portion of the break. To open the year, the Belles won by 30 over the Kalamazoo Hornets at home. Saint Mary’s made a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to distance themselves from Kalamazoo; then, they led by no less than 14 points for the rest of the game. Four Belles scored more than ten points: Schutz had 13, Rzepka had 16, Samson had 12 and senior guard Christina Shadid came off the bench to snag 14.
January also brought a new challenge, as the Belles were forced to take on No. 13/19 Trine within the first week of the year. On Jan. 7, Saint Mary’s fell 88-52 to Trine, who improved to 5-0 in conference play. Schutz put up more than ten points for her fifth game in a row with 14, but it wasn’t enough. The Belles found a bit of scoring momentum in the third, holding the Thunder to 16 and scoring 16 of their own. But after a first half that only saw them score 23 points to Trine’s 49, the Belles couldn’t threaten to make up the difference.
The break rounded out on an upswing for the Belles. In their fourth conference matchup of winter break — and the third of 2023 — Saint Mary’s took on Olivet at home and won, 72-62. In under four minutes, Saint Mary’s took a 9-2 lead. From there, the Belles led until the second period, where the Comets went on a 7-0 run to make it 16-15.
The two teams exchanged the lead a few more times throughout the second quarter and well into the third before Schutz made a layup and started a 12-0 run for the Belles. The Comets wouldn’t go quietly, though. At the end of the third, Saint Mary’s led Olivet by seven, 52-45. The Belles doubled that lead to 14 twice in the fourth quarter and led 69-59 with a minute. Despite some late fire from the Comets, the Belles held on, winning 72-62.