Belles Fall in Heartbreaker to Comets
- Krista Knapke scored 11 points to lead Saint Mary's.
- Kelsey Ronan added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
- Eleni Shea chipped in eight points and seven rebounds.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Eight turnovers over the final ten minutes of play by the Belles were a difference maker as the Saint Mary's basketball team was stopped short in a 52-49 conference contest against Olivet on Saturday afternoon.
The Belles came out of the gates ready to go and scored the first eight points of the game. Krista Knapke, Erin Maloney, and Eleni Shea all hit shots in the lane as Saint Mary's scored on four of their first five possessions of the game. The cylinders kept firing for the Saint Mary's offense throughout the opening quarter as the Belles extended the lead to 15-2 with under a minute remaining on the clock. Olivet tried to get a run started late in the quarter with four consecutive points, but Aspen Davis drained a three-pointer directly in front of the Comets' bench just before time expired to give the Belles an 18-6 lead at the first break. Saint Mary's hit a scorching 61.5 percent of their shots during the opening quarter while Olivet connected on just 16.7 percent of their attempts.
Saint Mary's continued to keep Olivet at bay while finding answers to any shots the Comets scored. Sarah Macius picked up a steal deep in the backcourt and made the layup to give the Belles their largest lead of the game at 24-10 with 5:28 left before halftime. With both teams hitting a dry spell shooting for the next two-plus minutes, Erin Maloney regained the 14-point margin for Saint Mary's with 2:25 to go. The Comets closed out the half with a three-pointer and a jump shot to make it a 26-17 game at the half.
Olivet then opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run over the opening three minutes of play to cut within three points at 26-23. Maddie Kohler put a stop to that run with a three-pointer at the top of the key, and Kelsey Ronan added a pair of free throws to put the Belles ahead 31-23 midway through the quarter. The Comets continued to try to stay close and got within five points twice, but Macius and Ronan regained a double-digit lead for Saint Mary's at 39-28 with 1:14 remaining in the period. Olivet, however, was able to close out the quarter with another short spurt of points, including a three-pointer before the buzzer, to edge within six points at 39-33 heading into the final ten minutes of play.
In a quarter where the tension was nearly palpable, the Belles continued to hang tough and keep hold of the lead. After the Comets opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, Maloney and Gabby Diamond helped Saint Mary's capitalize on back-to-back turnovers to put the Belles ahead 43-36 with 8:06 on the clock. The Comets pulled back within three points, but then Knapke had the answer with a layup with under seven minutes remaining. Neither team could get a bucket to fall during the next 2:03, but Olivet stopped that drought with a steal and a layup to make it 45-42 just under the five-minute mark. Five consecutive possessions for Saint Mary's yielded five turnovers, the last of those giveaways resulted in Olivet taking the lead for the first time in the game at 46-45 with 3:37 to go. Eleni Shea drained both ends of a trip to the free throw line 25 seconds later to put the Belles back on top. Working both the clock and the offense two possessions later, Saint Mary's was in danger of being whistled for a shot clock violation. With just two seconds left on the shot clock, Erin Maloney drove to the basket and put up a shot that went over the rim and directly into the hands of Kelsey Ronan. Ronan got the put-back off in time and sunk the layup to make it a 49-46 lead for the Belles with 1:44 remaining.
Saint Mary's got the ball back quickly after an offensive foul was called, but the Belles were unable to get any points on their next possession. The Comets took little time to launch a three-pointer and got the bucket to fall to knot the game at 49-49 with 56 seconds to go. An offensive rebound after a blocked shot kept the next Saint Mary's possession alive, but the Comets came away with possession after a jump ball with 27 seconds left on the clock. Olivet hit just the front end of a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to go. The rebound was loose, and a pair of players both grabbed the ball to lead to a jump ball whistle. The Belles got the ball back with eight seconds remaining on the alternating possession arrow and had a chance to set up the final play of regulation. The Comets, however, stole the in-bound pass and made a layup the other way to clinch the 52-49 decision.
Saint Mary's made 44.7 percent (21-of-47) of their shots from the floor while Olivet hit 42.9 percent (21-of-49) of their attempts in the game. The Belles held a 30-27 edge in rebounds, but the Comets outscored Saint Mary's 19-15 in points off of turnovers.
Krista Knapke led the Belles with 11 points while Kelsey Ronan added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Eleni Shea had eight points and seven rebounds as each of the eight players who competed for Saint Mary's scored at least three points.
The Belles (1-17, 1-8 MIAA) continue their current stretch of home games when they host Calvin on Wednesday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m.