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Belles fall to seventh in conference after loss to Scots

The Saint Mary’s Belles took on the Alma Scots Wednesday night in Angela Athletic Center. The teams were tied in conference records before tonight. Saint Mary’s was hoping to come away with a win in this matchup, having only lost by six to the Scots in their first meeting, but they couldn’t find their rhythm and Alma won 85-57. This was the team’s third straight loss. Previously tied with the Scots by conference record, the Belles now rank seventh in the conference with a 3-7 MIAA record (6-13 overall). 

In terms of what led to that final coming down the pike, coach Melissa Makielski said, “There’s a lot of things tonight I would’ve liked to see. We didn’t do a good job of executing offensively or defensively tonight. We kind of wanted to fall back on old habits, and we did. They shot the ball very well and scored a lot of points.”

The Belles won the tip but after several back-and-forth turnovers, it would be the Scots who scored the first points. Until the 2:44 mark, it was only points from beyond the arc and one free throw across both teams to bring the score to 12-7. Alma’s Taylor Sas drained three threes in the first five minutes of the game. The Scots wouldn’t score again, though, until less than three minutes left in the first. 

Despite a couple of clear lanes, the Belles often could not find the bottom of the net themselves. They would stay at seven as the Scots went on a ten-point run until the last 45 seconds of the first. Sophomore guard Jasmyne Townsend, leading scorer of the night for the Belles, and sophomore forward Julia Schutz (second highest with 12) would drain a few more free throws, but the Belles still could not keep the outside shots at bay. Brooke LeRoux drained another Scots three as time ran out in the first quarter. In that frame, the Belles were only able to put up 11 opposite 25 from Alma. The Scots built that 14-point margin behind 54.5% shooting from three in the first and would not allow the Belles within 12 for the rest of the game. 

“Some of the times we were there,” Makielski said. “It’s just a matter of having that chip on your shoulder, that defensive mentality of you know, she might score on me once, but I’m not letting that happen again, and we didn’t have that spark tonight. We have to have that in order to be successful.”

Sas scored another three for the Scots to start the second, but Schutz responded with one of her own before that first minute was up. Alma went on another run through the first five minutes of this quarter, scoring 12 that the Belles couldn’t answer outside of Schutz. 

“Julia has been our leading scorer all year long,” Coach Makielski said. “And it’s continuing to put her in those positions that she can take advantage of her height and her strength and either finish inside or knock down an open jumper for us that we need to see.”

With the score up to 37-15, Saint Mary’s and Alma would score back and forth through the end of the half. The Belles scored just a few more times than Scots, narrowing Alma’s lead to 16 points (44-28).

The scoring slowed at the start of the second half. As the third quarter progressed to the five-minute mark, the Belles narrowed the deficit to 12 in some back-and-forth scoring. The Scots found some power again and balanced out the scoring patterns once more, eventually extending their lead back up to 20. The two teams scored back and forth throughout the rest of the third, but the Belles would remain down roughly 20 still. 

Both teams kept scoring to start the final quarter. The Belles were able to light a little offensive fire under Townsend, who made jumper after jumper. Makielski said Townsend may have surprised some fans with how many points she scored (19), but that the “one dribble pull-up is her signature move.” 

“She made money on [that shot] tonight. For her, it’s getting her more in the flow of the game earlier,” where the Belles can hope to see more success that involves Townsend going forward, Makielski said. 

Despite sustained effort from senior guard Nikki Murphy and sophomore guard Lauren Gumma, the Belles could not make enough defensive stops. The Scots continued to score throughout the game, earning one less point in the fourth than they did in the first. The final Belles deficit sat at 28 and they lost 85-57. 

This brought the Belles to 2-4 since they returned from break, and Makielski said she wants the team to turn a corner in the last few weeks of the season by implementing some post-break changes more holistically.

“We’ve tried to play a little bit more up-tempo since we’ve gotten back and that’s been successful for us,” she said. “We’ve changed a few things defensively that have been kind of hit and miss with success for us, so we’ll keep plugging away and keep seeing what adjustments we can continue to make. A lot of it is trial and error with watching film and really getting the players to understand and see what we’re trying to do, what we want to do and having them see the level of success they can have with that.” 

The Belles take the court once more this week on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. EST. 

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Holy Cross wins tri-campus face-off

This season’s tri-campus face-off saw the Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross women’s basketball teams play head to head on Tuesday evening. A friendly match between the two schools (who normally play in different divisions and conferences), the game started last year in the 2021-2022 season to create a sense of community at home. This year’s game proved to be just that, with a crowd of family, friends, students and community members at the game. 

The first half of the game was a great watch, with both teams keeping the other on their toes, especially in the first quarter. In the first half, the Saint Mary’s Belles struggled to keep up with the Holy Cross Saints, but they kept the point gap fairly controlled. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the score was 45-31, with Holy Cross in the lead. 

The game took a turning point after halftime, however, as the Saints seemed to gain their footing on the offensive side and the Belles struggled with their defense and their shooting accuracy. By the end of the third quarter, Saint Mary’s was down 82-45 and it was not looking great for them toward the last ten minutes. Ultimately, the Holy Cross women’s offense was too strong for the Belles, who conceded the match in a final score of 106-57, making the game Holy Cross’ highest-scoring match of the season so far. 

Postgame, both coaches were open to talking about their teams’ dynamics. Holy Cross head coach Tom Robbins was pleased with the outcome of the game, not only because of hia team’s high score, but because they successfully addressed what he considers the team’s weakness this season, their defense.

“We’ve been giving up too many points, we lost our last game 90-87, so we’ve been scoring a lot of points, but we’ve been giving up a lot of points,” Robbins said on the match. “We wanted to keep the opponent under 60, which was 15 points a quarter, and I thought we showed some improvement in that today that we need to continue moving forward.”

On the other hand, he recognized his players’ hard work and achievements on the offense.

“Our strength has been our guard play, we only had 11 turnovers today. We get big scoring out of our guards, like [sophomore guard] Jordyn Smith and [senior guard] Jayda Miller. Our guard play has been a huge strength for us all season.” 

Saint Mary’s head coach Melissa Makielski was not as pleased with the outcome, but appreciated her team’s closeness as their greatest strength.

“I’d say our team camaraderie is probably our strongest point right now,” she said. “As far as what’s bettering right now, it’s hard to say anything after that game.”

As for what she tells her players in tough moments, she said she tries to remind them “just why they play, and the fact that basketball can teach them so many different things in life. There’s good times and bad times, and it’s how you respond to the bad times that will truly help you.” 

Both teams seemed to be facing opposite years, with Saints made up of mainly underclassmen and Belles led by a great number of upperclassmen this season. Robbins says he is excited for what is coming for the program.

“The future is really, really bright, especially because there [are] a lot of teams that have fifth -ear players because of an extra COVID year that makes us particularly young compared to those teams. But as soon as those teams start cycling those out, we are gonna be the last old team left while all these other teams are rebuilding.”

Makielski is just as optimistic for the future and the impact that the upperclassmen are having on the younger players.

“I think [an older team] means good things for us, because our upperclassmen are committed to the program and committed to see it get better, and they’ve laid the foundation for that in the offseason stuff that the kids have done,” Makielski said. “They’ve created a great culture that the kids want to be a part of, and that’s something that’s going to last even after they graduate.” 

As for the campus rivalry between both teams in this type of game, there seems to be a shared enjoyment of the challenge — as well as community — made by the game.

“Last year was the first year that we got this matchup going as a regular season matchup, and that’s what I envisioned was a tri-campus matchup,” Robbins. said “They’re playing up in Michigan, we’re playing in Illinois and we hadn’t played each other that much except for scrimmages. I think it’s great for the community for us to play each other, and also it’s a nice timing for us, for the end of the semester, since it’s a short road trip while getting ready for finals and all of that.”

Coach Makielski said her favorite part of playing Holy Cross is the familiarity.

“Even though it’s different divisions playing each other, it’s nice to have something other than conference play to look forward to and to challenge yourself with a rivalry like that,” she said.

In true tri-campus fashion, the night ended with both teams circling up and holding hands in prayer on the court after the final buzzer.