Belles Stung Late by Hornets
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Saint Mary's basketball team lost a 68-58 conference game at Kalamazoo on Wednesday night.
In a game which featured three ties and seven lead changes, the Belles were up to the challenge of sticking with the Hornets after a weather-lengthened bus ride. Kalamazoo stormed out to a 9-2 lead through the first 3:15 of play, but Saint Mary's countered with a 6-0 spurt with a bucket by Krista Knapke and a pair of free throws and a good jump shot by Eleni Shea to make it 9-8 two minutes later.
The Hornets held the lead while extending their advantage back to seven on a three-pointer and a jump shot on back-to-back possessions to pull ahead 19-12 with 9:10 remaining in the opening half of play.
The Belles continued to put the defensive pressure on the Hornets while hitting three consecutive shots to tie the game at 22-22 with 4:02 remaining. On the Belles' next possession, Heather Pesigan drained a three-pointer to give the Belles their first lead since the opening moments of the game just over three minutes before the halftime break. Ariana Paul extended the Saint Mary's advantage to four after hitting the tail end of a two-shot trip to the charity stripe with 55 seconds left on the clock.
Kalamazoo picked up a defensive rebound late in the half and turned it into points by sinking a three-pointer with four seconds to go to make it 26-25 in favor of the Belles at the half.
The Hornets opened up the scoring in the second period with a pair of free throws to regain the lead at 27-26, but Krista Knapke drained a second-chance jumper from close range to put Saint Mary's ahead 28-27.
Kalamazoo delivered the counter-attack with an 8-0 spurt in a span of two minutes to take a 34-28 advantage over the Belles with 15:57 left on the clock. Again, Saint Mary's came up with an answer with Ariana Paul, Maddie Kohler, and Timoney Moyer all finding the scoring column to put the Belles up 36-34 with just over 12 minutes to go.
It was then the Hornets' turn to post a run as Kalamazoo put 10 of the next 12 points on the scoreboard to regain a 44-38 lead with more than eight minutes remaining.
After 12 combined free throw attempts by both teams over the next three-and-a-half minutes, the Belles trailed 55-48 with 4:22 to go. Ariana Paul fought for an offensive rebound on the last of those 12 free throws and put the follow-up effort in to make it a five-point affair.
The Hornets hit the tail end of a two-shot trip to the line on their next possession, and the Belles followed up with a jumper in the lane by Knapke to make it 56-52. Pesigan then made it a one-possession game after draining a pair of free throws with 3:09 on the clock.
Kalamazoo pushed their lead back to three with a free throw, but Paul sunk a baseline jumper to cut the deficit to one at 57-56 with 2:08 to go. A layup by the Hornets followed by a steal on the ensuing in-bounds pass and another layup make it a five-point game with 1:46 remaining, but the Belles continued to fight down the stretch. Paul came up with a steal, and Pesigan cut through the lane and hit a layup to get Saint Mary's back within three points at 61-58 with 1:04 on the clock.
The Belles, however, were unable to make a further dent in the deficit while the Hornets posted a three-pointer and four free throws late to claim the 68-58 decision.
Ariana Paul led all players with 17 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Krista Knapke added 16 points, and Heather Pesigan posted a career-high 11 points.
The Belles (3-11, 1-4 MIAA) have a week before their next competition when they travel to No. 16 Calvin on Wednesday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m.