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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

SMC Basketball: Belles hope to continue success on road against Calvin

Coming off back-to-back MIAA wins, the Belles travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., tonight to play Calvin at 7:30, looking to even the score after their 67-52 loss to the Knights in December. The team is also looking for its first win over Calvin since Saint Mary's entered the MIAA in 1997.

Calvin has always been a powerhouse, winning the conference 11 times since 1979. They have been in 10 NCAA Tournaments, including a trip to the Elite 8 in 2007. But the Knights currently stand in third place in the MIAA, with the Belles tied for fourth with Olivet.

Saint Mary's (8-7, 4-3 MIAA) enters the contest with two important victories from last week under its belt. The Belles beat conference rivals Kalamazoo and Tri-State 72-69 and 74-71, respectively.

"Any time you can get two MIAA victories in a week, it's been a good week," Saint Mary's coach Jenn Henley said. "We haven't played our best, but we have found a way to win both times."

Saint Mary's also had a record-setting week. Senior Alison Kessler scored a program-record 41 points against Kalamazoo and had a team-high 16 points against Tri-State. The single-game total against Kalamazoo is tops in Division III this season.

"I think Alison's numbers speak for themselves," Henley said. "She had a big week for us offensively, but that wouldn't have been possible if her teammates hadn't gotten her the ball."

The Belles had a week of strong rebounding as well. Junior Erin Newsom led the team with 23 in the two games, followed by Kessler and sophomore Anna Kammrath, both with 18. Despite the strong numbers on the boards, Henley is still looking for more from her team.

"We have a pretty strong week coming up with games against Calvin and Hope," Henley said. "We have to find a way to play better team defense and continue to win the rebounding battle."

The rebounding battle is only part of what the Belles need to work on for today's game. In its last match up against Calvin, Saint Mary's shot only 27.9 percent from the floor, with Calvin at 39.6 percent. Kessler had only 15 points, and leading rebounder Newsom ended with 9.

The Knights' leading scorer, Marcia Harris, had 23 points that night, her second highest in a game this season. Harris ranks third in the MIAA for scoring, with an average of 17 points per game.

But the Belles are playing well now.

"We have had a lot of players step up this season," Henley said. "It's hard to single out just one person, especially in a team sport."