Belles Battle, Come Up Short In Nail-biter Against Brits
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The last two times Albion has visited Angela Athletic Facility, the game was decided by three points with Saint Mary's taking each of those narrowly-decided wins. After a furious comeback late in the game this afternoon, the Belles were the ones on the wrong side of a 76-73 final against the Brits.
The teams were evenly matched from the opening tip-off, but the Belles were the ones to establish a quick lead with the first two baskets of the game. Saint Mary's matched that same four-point lead five minutes later when Maddie Kohler hit her first of two three-pointers in the game to make it 15-11 in favor of the Belles with more than 13 minutes left on the clock.
The Belles were able to maintain the lead until the Brits converted a three-point play with a layup and a free throw to tie the game at 21-21. Krista Knapke pushed Saint Mary's ahead with a good jump shot, but Albion knotted the game up on their next possession with another layup.
A free throw 20 seconds later gave the Brits their first lead since the 16:16 mark in the half as the clock moved below nine minutes. A pair of offensive rebounds kept the ball in the Belles' hands, and Ariana Paul put Saint Mary's back on top with a jump shot for the 25-24 lead with 8:26 to go.
A three-pointer on the ensuing Albion possession saw the lead change hands yet again, and a layup a minute later gave the Brits their largest lead at 29-26 with just over seven minutes left before the half.
Saint Mary's stayed within a possession of Albion with Paul, Gabby Diamond, and Kohler each hitting buckets to get the Belles within a point of the lead. Over the final three-and-a-half minutes of play, however, the Brits hit four free throws while the Belles were unable to convert on their end of the floor as Albion took a 37-32 lead into halftime.
Albion came out of the break and extended their lead to 11 points at 43-32, but the Belles were far from conceding defeat. Eleni Shea, Molly Robinson, and Krista Knapke scored the next eight points of the game to make it a 43-40 contest with just under 16 minutes on the clock.
After cutting the deficit to three points five different times over the next seven minutes of play, Saint Mary's made it a one-point game at 56-55 with a tough layup by Heather Pesigan. Albion picked up a layup of their own, but it was Timoney Moyer's turn to find the bottom of the net on an acrobatic layup to push the game to 58-57 with 6:46 to go.
Albion went on a 10-2 run while burning a chunk of the clock over the next four-and-a-half minutes to pull ahead by nine with 2:14 on the clock. Again, the Belles dug in their heels and fought their way right back into the game.
Paul and Knapke hit back-to-back shots to make it a five-point game at 68-63 with 1:35 to go. The Belles swayed the momentum in a big way on the next defensive stop. Maddie Kohler and Timoney Moyer trapped the Brits' point guard on the Saint Mary's defensive end, and Kohler dove to knock the ball away. Moyer then gained control of the ball and maintained her dribble while falling to the ground. The sophomore was able to spin and get off a clear pass to Kohler, who drove to the hoop and hit the fastbreak bucket to make it a 68-65 game with 1:11 on the clock.
A pair of free throws pushed Albion's lead back to five with less than a minute to go. Knapke hit a jump shot to make it a one-possession game at 70-67 with 32 seconds left. Heather Pesigan hit a free throw between an Albion layup and a pair of free throws for the Brits as the visitors clung to a 74-68 advantage with 17 seconds.
Sarah Macius drove to the basket, drew a foul, and sunk a pair of free throws to keep the game alive for Saint Mary's as the Belles trailed just 74-70 with nine seconds on the clock. On the ensuing inbounds play for the Brits, Ariana Paul swiped the ball away from the Brits and called a timeout to give the Belles the ball deep in their offensive end of the floor. The Belles' own inbounds play was executed to perfection as Maddie Kohler drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc with two seconds to get the Belles within one point at 74-73.
The Belles were unable to get the jump ball or a steal on the next play, and the Brits hit both ends of their trip to the free throw line to pull ahead 76-73.
Kohler's effort from three-quarters down the court was late and off the mark in the final second of play as Albion took the three-point decision.
The Belles shot a blistering 63.0 percent (17-of-27) from the floor in the second half to the Brits' 43.5 field goal percentage. The big difference in the game came from the charity stripe as Albion made 30-of-39 free throws to the Belles' 8-of-17 effort from the line.
Ariana Paul led the Belles with 16 points and 14 rebounds while adding five steals to record her sixth double-double of the year. Krista Knapke had 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Maddie Kohler chipped in 10 points and four assists while Eleni Shea and Molly Robinson each scored 10 points for the Belles.
The Belles return to the hardwood next Wednesday, January 21 when they host conference foe Olivet at 7:30 p.m.