Belles Out-Dueled by Quick Tempo Cardinals
- Kelsey Ronan scored a career-high 22 points to lead all players.
- Krista Knapke added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to move into seventh place all time in career rebounds.
- Erin Maloney, Gabby Diamond, and Maddie Kohler each chipped in 10 points for the Belles.
WESTERVILLE, Ohio - The Saint Mary's basketball team ended on the wrong side of a 100-73 final against North Central on day two of the Smokey Ballenger Classic on Tuesday.
Entering the game, North Central led all of NCAA Division III women's basketball in total scoring and points per game. The Belles, however, struck first in the game with a second-chance jump shot in the paint by Maddie Kohler while Saint Mary's hit the glass hard to limit the Cardinals' chances through the first few minutes of play. North Central made a three-pointer, but the Belles were able to come back with a fastbreak bucket by Krista Knapke to make it a 4-3 game with just over seven minutes left on the clock. Saint Mary's again overtook the lead under the six-minute mark with a fastbreak layup by Erin Maloney while continuing to hold the NCAA Division III leading offense of the Cardinals' at bay. North Central, however, began hitting shots in a hurry and rattled off a 13-2 run to pull ahead 19-9 with 2:19 on the clock. Kelsey Ronan cleaned up the offensive glass and hit the put-back with 11 seconds left in the quarter to keep the Belles close at 25-15 at the first break.
Maddie Kohler made the most of the opening possession of the second quarter for Saint Mary's by hitting a jump shot to make it 25-17, and Eleni Shea sunk a layup on the next possession to push the score to 28-19. The Belles, however, hit a cold spell shooting over the next four minutes as the Cardinals made it 42-23 contest with 5:37 left before halftime. Maloney and Gabby Diamond hit three consecutive buckets for the Belles to help slow the momentum while cutting the deficit to 13 at 42-29 with 3:18 remaining. After the Cardinals extended the lead to 20 points, Saint Mary's again chipped away and edged within 13 points again at 51-38 with 1:12 on the clock. A three-pointer on the next possession by North Central pushed the score to 54-38, which is where it stood at the halftime break.
The Cardinals, however, opened up the third quarter on a 13-2 run to make it 67-40 with more than six minutes left in the period. By the end of the third quarter, North Central held an 83-53 advantage moving into the the final 10 minutes of play. The Cardinals led by at least 24 points over the remainder of play as North Central claimed the 100-73 final.
Saint Mary's held a 46-32 scoring edge in points in the paint while scoring 20 second-chance points to the Cardinals' 15 as the teams took a combined 187 shots from the floor in the game.
Kelsey Ronan hit 10-of-16 shots on her way to a career-high and game-best 22 points. Krista Knapke picked up her fourth double-double of the year with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The senior forward also moved into seventh place all time in career rebounds by moving past the previous seventh-highest mark of 581 boards. Erin Maloney registered 10 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds. Gabby Diamond chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds, and Maddie Kohler posted 10 points for the Belles.
The Belles (1-12) return to the hardwood on Wednesday, January 6 when they host No. 4 ranked Hope at 7:30 p.m.