Free Throws the Difference as Belles Stopped on Senior Day
- Krista Knapke had her third consecutive double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
- Eleni Shea added 15 points, and Kelsey Ronan chipped in 11 points.
- Sarah Macius tallied a career-high four assists to go along with six points.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team made ten more shots from the floor and controlled the paint, but visiting Kalamazoo made 34-of-42 free throws to the Belles' 9-of-12 effort to take the 74-66 final on Senior Recognition Day at Angela Athletic Facility.
The Hornets established a six-point lead through the opening three minutes of play with a three-pointer and a three-point play. With the Hornets still up six, Sarah Macius and Krista Knapke knocked down back-to-back baskets for the Belles to make it 10-8 with just under four minutes remaining in the first period. Kalamazoo responded with six straight points for a 16-8 lead with 2:43 on the clock. Eleni Shea edged Saint Mary's within six points at 16-10 and 18-12, but the Hornets hit a late free throw to claim a 19-12 lead at the first break.
The Belles hardly missed from the floor in the second quarter (11-of-15; 73.3 percent) as Saint Mary's took over the momentum of the game by outscoring Kalamazoo 28-13 in the stanza. The sides traded buckets to start the period to make it a 21-14 game, but the Belles mounted a strong and steady 13-4 run over a span of 4:34 to go ahead 27-25 with 4:12 remaining. The Hornets hit a three on their next possession to go up one before Sarah Macius sunk a jumper to push the score to 29-28 in favor of the Belles. Kalamazoo regained the lead again with two free throws, but the Belles were undeterred in their efforts late in the quarter. Saint Mary's closed out the final three minutes of play with an 11-2 run capped off by a Gabby Crown three-pointer and a buzzer-beating layup by Krista Knapke, to take a 40-32 lead and the momentum into the halftime break.
That energy carried for Saint Mary's carried over into the third quarter of play as the Belles extended the lead to 16 points at 50-34 with 5:38 on the clock. Krista Knapke and Eleni Shea each completed a three-point play, Sarah Macius hit a layup, and Knapke added another layup all with Kohler running the offense as the four seniors put the team squarely on their shoulders. Kalamazoo, however, took full advantage of their trips to the free throw line over the final five minutes of the quarter while the Belles were able to put just four more points on the scoreboard during that span as Saint Mary's led 54-48 heading into the final ten minutes of play.
Kalamazoo pulled within a point of Saint Mary's less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, bu Knapke hit a second-chance shot to push the score to 56-53. A minute and some change later, it was Kelsey Ronan's turn to hit the response bucket as the Belles held on to the 58-55 lead with 6:17 on the clock. The Hornets knotted the score at 58-58, but Ronan was the beneficiary of a pair of passes to the block as the junior put the Belles back ahead 62-58 with 4:11 remaining. A three-pointer and a fastbreak jumper by Kalamazoo gave the Hornets their first lead since 3:15 in the second quarter at 63-62 with 3:08 to go. Saint Mary's had three solid looks at the basket on their next possession after a pair of offensive rebounds, but the Belles could not get the friendly bounces as the clock moved toward the two-minute mark. The Hornets made it a 65-62 game before doubling their lead to 68-62 after a pair of free throws off of an extended possession with 1:55 left. Kalamazoo extended their lead even further to 70-62 before Erin Maloney made it a six-point game with a second-chance layup with less than a minute to go. Four free throws in the final thirty seconds by the Hornets, however, was too much of a deficit to overcome late in the 74-66 final.
The Belles had 28 good shots from the floor to the Hornets' 18, and Saint Mary's outscored Kalamazoo 34-20 in points in the paint. The Hornets, however, had a +25 margin in made free throws, including a 15-of-17 effort in the fourth quarter alone.
Krista Knapke led the Belles with her third consecutive double-double by tallying 21 points and 11 rebounds. Eleni Shea added 15 points and four assists. Kelsey Ronan chipped in 11 points. Sarah Macius tallied six points and a career-high four assists. Maddie Kohler added her 200th career assist for the Belles.
The Belles (1-23, 1-14 MIAA) have their second bye of the conference schedule on Wednesday and conclude their season on Saturday, February 20 when they travel to Albion for a 3:00 p.m. contest.