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Belles fall short, lose to Wheaton 76-68

On the road, the Saint Mary’s basketball team dropped their first game of the season, falling 76-68 to the Wheaton Thunder. A slow defensive start put the Belles behind the eight-ball, trailing for the entirety of the final three quarters. 

Senior guard Maddie Rzepka led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Elle Deardorff added 14 points on 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Her three triples equaled half of Saint Mary’s total, as the Belles shot just 36.5% from the field. They were 6-18 from three-point range. On the flip side, the Thunder shot 44.8% and outrebounded the Belles 42-36. They also got 21 points from their bench, sparked by a 3-5 three-point shooting effort from Anna Fernandez. The Thunder shot just 11-23 from the free throw line and 5-19 from distance, but their defensive pressure made up for offensive inconsistencies. They notched 16 steals and eight blocks in the contest. 

In a high-scoring first quarter, the Belles traded punches with their hosts, but they couldn’t quite match Wheaton’s 26-point period and trailed 26-21 at the break. There were several lead changes in that first ten minutes, but Fernandez drilled a triple with 1:13 remaining to give Wheaton a 22-19 advantage. The Belles never led again in the game. 

Inconsistent offense plagues Belles

Part of that could be attributed to a significant slump in the second quarter. The Belles went eight minutes and 19 seconds without notching a field goal. However, Wheaton also struggled during this stretch and scored just 12 points in the quarter. That kept Saint Mary’s in the game, trailing just 38-29 at halftime. 

The Belles clawed back in the third quarter. After going down by 13, the Belles broke off a 10-2 run to get back within five at 52-47. Rzepka’s three-ball punctuated the run. Saint Mary’s briefly got within a possession at 55-52 and trailed by four heading into the final quarter. However, the comeback was not to be. The Thunder dominated the early portion of the quarter, ballooning their advantage to 69-55 with under five minutes to play. The Belles cut it back to 71-66 with an 11-2 run, but that was as close as it got. Five straight points from Wheaton ended any faint rally hopes, as the Thunder secured the eight-point victory. 

The Belles fall to 2-1 and will look to rebound on Thursday. They host Illinois Tech at 7 p.m.