Belles Edged Out by Big Blue
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team lost a 60-55 non-conference game against visiting Millikin on Friday evening.
The Belles were in charge for the majority of the first half of play as Saint Mary's held the lead for more than 15 minutes of the opening 20 minutes of action. Midway through the half, the visiting Big Blue went on an 8-2 run to claim a 14-10 advantage with 9:09 left on the clock. The Belles rallied right back with a 10-0 run of their own to regain a 20-14 advantage with less than five minutes remaining until halftime.
With 2:17 on the clock, Krista Knapke hit both ends of a trip to the charity stripe to hold the Belles' lead at five points at 26-21. Over the final two minutes, Saint Mary's hit just a pair of free throws while Millikin made a late run with four good baskets - including a baseline jump shot with a second left on the clock - to take a 29-28 lead at the half.
The Belles were in possession of the ball for more than a minute early in the second half while posting five offensive rebounds during that same span, but Saint Mary's was unable to convert those chances into points. The Big Blue also had trouble getting on the scoreboard to open the second period as neither team was able to tally points for the first 3:20 of action. As it turned out, Millikin was the team that ended the drought with a pair of buckets on back-to-back possessions to go ahead 33-28.
Despite hitting that early rough patch shooting, the Belles kept the game close and regained the lead after an 8-2 spurt as Saint Mary's went ahead 36-35 with 13:59 on the clock. The teams had some back and forth scoring as the Big Blue went ahead on their next two possessions only to have the Belles tie the game up at 39-39.
Millikin put nine consecutive points on the scoreboard and capped off a 12-2 run with a layup at 6:39 to claim a game-high 10-point lead at 50-40. The Belles buckled back down and fought their way back into the game as the contest was far from decided. The next four possessions for the Belles yielded four good buckets as Knapke, Eleni Shea, and Ariana Paul all contributed to the team's comeback effort as Saint Mary's trailed by four points at 52-48 with 5:01 remaining.
Offensive rebounds helped the Belles stay close late in the game. After Millikin made a free throw with 4:29 left, Saint Mary's scrapped their way to three offensive boards on their next possession. A foul by the Big Blue sent Paul to the free throw line, where she hit her second attempt to make it a 53-49 contest with 3:51 to go.
A minute later, Paul again made it a four-point game with a layup as the clock wound down below the three-minute mark. The game remained at 55-51 in favor of the Big Blue for nearly two minutes until Millikin sunk a free throw with 56 seconds left for a 56-51 lead. Krista Knapke hit the front end of a trip to the free throw line on the ensuing Saint Mary's possession, but the Big Blue pushed their advantage to six at 58-52 with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left.
At the other end of the floor, offensive rebounds again played a big role in the Belles' efforts on the night as Saint Mary's collected a pair of boards to keep their possession alive. After the second of those boards, Ariana Paul hit Maddie Kohler at the top of the arc as the junior drained a three-pointer with nine seconds left to make it a 58-55 game.
The Belles narrowly missed out on the steal on the Big Blue's deep pass down the floor on the inbounds play. Saint Mary's was forced to foul to keep the game alive, but Millikin hit both ends of the trip to the line with four seconds left to pull ahead by the final 60-55 margin.
Saint Mary's held a 51-43 advantage in rebounds on the night with a 25-14 edge in offensive boards. The Belles held the Big Blue to a 37.3 field goal percentage and a season-low 18.8 three-point field goal percentage, but Saint Mary's was hindered by a 29.4 percent shooting performance from the floor on the night.
Krista Knapke led all players with 17 points and three blocked shots while Ariana Paul added 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for the Belles. Timoney Moyer chipped in eight points in the loss.
The Belles (3-7) are off until after the Christmas holiday. Saint Mary's returns to play on Monday, December 29 when they travel to Carthage for a two-day tournament and take on the host Lady Reds at 7:00 p.m. CST.