Belles Outlast Scots in Nail-Biter
- Erin Maloney led the Belles with 15 points, a career-high eight steals, five assists, and three rebounds.
- Olivia Lathers had a career-high 14 points and finished the game 4-of-6 from behind the arc.
- Gabby Diamond added her third consecutive double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Giavanna Paradiso hit a free throw with seven seconds remaining in regulation and the Belles' defense stood tall late as the Saint Mary's basketball team a 66-65 conference win over Alma on Saturday afternoon.
The Belles went on a tear to open up the game as Saint Mary's hit 60.0 percent of their shots (12-of-20) and a staggering 85.7 percent of their three-pointers (6-of-7) in the first quarter of action. Holding on to a 9-8 lead midway through the period, Bern McGeever drained back-to-back three-pointers before Erin Maloney added a layup off a steal and Olivia Lathers sunk a three-pointer to make it a 20-10 lead for the Belles in less than a minute and a half. Alma cut the deficit to six points at 20-14, but Lathers provided a huge offensive punch with two more three-pointers and a baseline runner to give Saint Mary's a 28-16 advantage. Gabby Diamond got a jump shot in the lane to fall with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, but the Scots hit a late shot to make it 30-18 at the first break. The 30-point outpouring marks the most in a single quarter for the Belles basketball program since the NCAA moved from halves to quarters in 2015-16. The previous high-point total in a quarter for the team was 28, which occurred twice (vs. Oglethorpe last year; vs. Kalamazoo in 2015-16).
Saint Mary's continued to find an answer to the Scots throughout much of the second quarter of play. Giavanna Paradiso, Maloney, and Delaney Rohlman each came up with buckets in response to Alma shots as the Belles held a 38-26 lead at the 5:39 mark. Paradiso added three more points, and Gabby Diamond had a put-back layup a short while later to keep the Belles ahead 43-32 with 2:15 remaining before halftime. The Scots, however, closed out the period with an 8-2 run to make it a 45-40 score at the midway break.
Alma out-scored Saint Mary's 9-4 over the opening six-plus minutes of the third quarter to tie the score at 49-49 as neither team was able to generate much offense. Megan Saunders quickly regained the lead for Saint Mary's with a tough jumper at the 3:34 mark. Despite the Belles being whistled for five fouls in the first three minutes of the quarter, the Scots made just six trips to the charity stripe in the period and converted four of those six attempts. The last of those made free throws came with 1:16 in the quarter and cut the Saint Mary's lead to 51-50. Saunders, however, pulled down a defensive rebound in the final 30 seconds of the quarter and hit another tough jump shot to give the Belles a 53-50 lead going into the final 10 minutes of play.
Erin Maloney opened up the scoring in the fourth quarter with a timely three-pointer at the top of the key, and Megan Saunders added yet another jump shot to keep the Saint Mary's lead at six points at 58-52. Both sides hit a scoring drought for the next 2:47 of play until Olivia Lathers hit her fourth three-pointer of the game to give the Belles a 61-52 edge. The Scots put four quick points up to make it a five-point game, but Maloney broke up the scoring run with a pair of free throws with 4:33 to play. After a Gabby Diamond jump shot in the lane gave the Belles the 65-60 lead with 3:26 to play, the Scots put points on the scoreboard on four consecutive possessions to knot the game at 65-65 with 1:59 still left on the clock. Saint Mary's hit the offensive glass hard over the next minute, but the Belles were unable to get any of the next four shots to fall. Olivia Lathers came up with a key steal with under a minute remaining to keep the Scots from getting a potential go-ahead shot off. After working the possession, Alma was whistled for a pair of fouls late in the quarter. The second of those fouls sent Giavanna Paradiso to the free throw line with seven seconds remaining. The freshman responded in a big way after missing the mark on her first attempt by hitting the second free throw for a 66-65 Saint Mary's lead. The Scots used their final timeout to advance the ball to the front court, but a late layup and follow up jump shot from the post were both off the mark as the Belles prevailed by the one-point margin.
The Belles finished the game with 10 made three-pointers, marking the most threes by a Saint Mary's side since the team hit nine three-pointers on three occasions in the 2007-08 season. Alma held a 48-36 advantage in rebounds in the contest with a 31-19 edge in defensive boards. The Scots, meanwhile were 17-of-26 from the charity stripe in the contest while the Belles hit 4-of-8 free throws in the game.
Erin Maloney led the Belles with 15 points, a career-high eight steals, five assists, and three rebounds. Olivia Lathers had a career-high 14 points and finished the game 4-of-6 from behind the arc. Gabby Diamond added her third consecutive double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists. Bern McGeever, Giavanna Paradiso, and Megan Saunders each chipped in six points.
The Belles (2-7, 1-3 MIAA) have a break from conference play during the next two weeks. Saint Mary's is back in action on Monday when they take on IU-South Bend at the Titans' Student Activities Center at 1:00 p.m.