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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Belles drop season opener to Wheaton

Saint Mary’s dropped its opening game of the season against No. 19 Wheaton on Saturday, 78-41, but will get a chance to rebound quickly when it faces North Park on Tuesday at Saint Mary's.

Against Wheaton, junior forward Krista Knapke gave the Belles (0-1) an early 3-2 lead with a three-point play inside the first three minutes of the game. The Thunder (1-0) soon pulled away, however, scoring 31 of the next 33 points on their way to establishing a 35-8 lead by halftime.

Belles coach Jennifer Henley said that the Thunder proved they deserved their national ranking, as they commanded the game from the start.

“They are a very good team,” Henley said of the Thunder. “They set the tempo and controlled the entire game.”

Saint Mary’s kept the game closer in the second half, converting 13 of 19 free throws while scoring 33 points in the half. However, Wheaton continued to hold onto its comfortable lead and earned the 37-point victory.

Henley said she felt a lack of team chemistry hurt the Belles and that they will need to improve their teamwork and team psyche in order to be successful this season.

“Overall, we did not play well as a team,” Henley said. “Fortunately, one game does not define a season. We have to be better prepared mentally and find the discipline to do the little things for the entire game.”

Saint Mary’s was able to force 26 Wheaton turnovers — including seven forced by senior forward Ariana Paul — and collected 20 points off of them. This was not enough, however, as the difference in field-goal shooting proved costly. Saint Mary’s converted only 12 of their 60 attempts, scoring only four first-half points from the field, and did not make a single three-point shot, while the Thunder sank over 40 percent of their attempts. Wheaton also controlled the front court, recording 65 rebounds to the Belles’ 34.

Knapke led the Belles in scoring with nine points on the day, while freshman forward Gabby Diamond added six and finished with a team-leading six rebounds.

Five freshmen made their first ever appearances for the Belles, with Diamond leading the scoring for the first-year players.

Saint Mary’s will hope to earn its first win of the season when they play North Park (1-0), but Henley admitted that it may be difficult for her team to bounce back so soon after such a lopsided defeat.

“We don't have much time to turn things around before we play North Park,” Henley said.

The Belles will face the Vikings at Angela Athletic Facility at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday night.