Belles Fend Off Scots in Conference Opener
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team held off a late push by visiting Alma to earn a 64-61 conference win on Wednesday night.
After a back-and-forth duel saw the teams trade baskets over the opening four-and-a-half minutes of play, the Belles were the ones to take control. Saint Mary's posted an 11-0 run while taking solid control of both the ball and the game over a three-minute span to build a 19-8 advantage over the Scots. The Belles scored on five of their six possessions while not giving up a turnover during what proved to be a crucial run in the game.
The Scots turned up the pressure and the pace of play and were able to put nine points on the scoreboard in a matter of 31 seconds to make it a five-point game with the Belles leading 22-17.
Neither team was able to find success in the form of points with the next five possessions, but the Belles were able to break Alma's momentum and regain a six-point lead after Maddie Kohler hit both ends of a one-and-one with 5:43 remaining in the first half.
Alma picked up a layup on a second-chance opportunity to edge within four points at 23-19 with less than five minutes on the clock, but Kohler was clutch at the line again to push the Belles' advantage back to six at 25-19. Three minutes later, Saint Mary's extended the lead to a game-high 12 points at 31-19 as the clock moved just below the two-minute mark.
Eleni Shea ensured that the Belles held a double-digit lead at the break with a layup with 16 seconds left on the clock to put Saint Mary's ahead 34-24 at halftime.
The Belles regained a 12-point advantage twice in the opening 5:44 of the second half with the latter of those two leads being 45-33 with 14:16 on the clock. The Scots, however, did not go away without a furious comeback over the next 12:37 of play.
Alma started their comeback with back-to-back three pointers to cut the lead in half at 45-39. The Belles flirted with regaining a double-digit advantage by pulling ahead by nine points twice before the Scots shaved the lead to just three points as Saint Mary's clung to a 52-49 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Six consecutive points by Eleni Shea gave the Belles yet another nine-point lead, but that margin quickly dissipated to one point as Alma put together a 10-2 run to make it 60-59 with 1:39 left in the second half. After a timeout, the Belles worked their offense and Ariana Paul found Krista Knapke in the paint for a layup to make it a three-point game with more than a minute remaining.
The Scots were unable to get any points out of their next possession, and Paul was able to all but put the game away with a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. Alma hit a pair of free throws in the final second of the game, but the Belles' lead was insurmountable that late in the game as Saint Mary's picked up the 64-61 win.
Eleni Shea scored a new career-high 19 points to lead all players, and Ariana Paul picked up her third double-double of the year with 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Krista Knapke chipped in 13, and Maddie Kohler dropped in 10 points in the win.
The Belles (3-3, 1-0 MIAA) travel to in-state MIAA rival Trine for a 1:00 p.m. contest against the Thunder on Saturday, December 6.