Belles Comeback Stymied by Spartans
KENOSHA, Wis. - The Saint Mary's basketball team pulled within four points of Manchester in the final eight minutes of action, but the Belles' comeback effort was stopped short at 60-54 by the Spartans on Tuesday.
Separated by 75 miles, Saint Mary's and Manchester had to tack on 100 miles to the trip and travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin to face each other in the regular season as the teams faced off in the consolation contest of the Carthage Classic on Tuesday afternoon.
Gabby Diamond scored on the opening possession of the game, and Ariana Paul completed a three-point play two-and-a-half minutes in to give the Belles an early 5-4 lead. Paul added a layup thirty seconds later to knot the game at 7-7.
The Spartans then put together a series of plays to sway the momentum into their favor. After hitting a three-pointer, Manchester came up with a steal and a layup while drawing a foul on the play on the ensuing inbounds play to claim a 12-5 advantage.
That play was the start to a run which saw the Spartans pull ahead by 12 points at 23-11 with 10:46 remaining in the first half of play. Trailing by that same 12-point margin a minute and a half later, the Belles posted six consecutive points to cut the deficit in half. Molly Robinson, Heather Pesigan, and Eleni Shea each tallied two points to edge the Belles within 27-21 of the Spartans with 6:10 on the clock.
A pair of three-pointers on either end of four free throws for Manchester resulted in a 10-4 spurt to give the Spartans a 37-25 lead with 3:24 before halftime. Four points in-a-row by Gabby Diamond made it 37-29 with 14 seconds left before the break, but a last-second foul call gave the Spartans three shots from the free throw line as Manchester took a 40-29 lead at halftime.
Diamond, Krista Knapke, and Paul gave the Belles a quick start in the second half as Saint Mary's made it a 43-37 game with plenty of time left in the game. The Belles had five possessions over the next four minutes and were able to convert on that fifth possession to make it 43-39 with less than 13 minutes on the clock.
The Spartans hit the tail end of a pair of free throws to go ahead by five points, but the Belles quickly made it a one-possession game with Molly Robinson hitting a layup with 10:39 to go to pull Saint Mary's within 44-41.
After a pair of offensive rebounds and a foul against the Belles on the following possession, Manchester doubled their lead with another three-pointer to go ahead 47-41 with under ten minutes left in the half.
The Belles responded right back with a layup by Eleni Shea to keep within striking distance with 9:25 to go. The teams traded buckets back and forth again with Robinson coming up with the response bucket to make it 49-45 with 7:36 on the clock.
The Spartans, however, put seven points on the scoreboard in a hurry to regain a double-digit lead at 56-45 with 5:08 remaining.
The Belles made a late push with full-court pressure and came up with a pair of steals in the final minute to make it 60-54 with 27 seconds to go, but the comeback attempt ran out of time for Saint Mary's.
Saint Mary's allowed a season-low 20 points in the second half as the Belles outscored Manchester 25-20 over the second period of play.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Ariana Paul was named to the all-tournament team for Saint Mary's.
Ariana Paul led the Belles with 15 points and three steals on the afternoon. Eleni Shea added 12 points, which included a perfect 6-of-6 effort from the free throw line. Gabby Diamond had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Krista Knapke chipped in nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.
The Belles (3-9) return to conference play on Saturday, January 3 when they travel to Adrian for a 3:00 p.m. contest against the Bulldogs.