ALMA, Mich. - Trailing by 16 points with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Saint Mary's basketball team out-scored host Alma 39-17 over the final 14 minutes of the contest to take a 72-66 conference victory on Saturday afternoon.
Neither side had much luck generating offense through the first five minutes of the contest as the Belles held a narrow 6-5 lead midway through the period. Megan Saunders drained a three-pointer for a 9-5 Saint Mary's advantage to break up a 2:28 scoring drought combined between the teams. Alma responded with back-to-back buckets, but Caroline Macius came right back with a layup to put the Belles ahead 11-10 with more than a minute remaining on the clock. Alma hit the latter of two free throw attempts with 34 seconds left in the period to knot the score at 11-11 through one quarter of play.
Giavanna Paradiso put the Belles ahead 13-12 with a jump shot in the early moments of the second quarter. The Scots came back with a layup and a three-pointer to take a 16-13 lead three minutes into the period. Paradiso and Bella Dugas each sunk a pair of free throws a short while later to make it an 18-17 score in favor of Alma. Olivia Lathers pushed Saint Mary's ahead with a three-pointer at 20-18 with just under five minutes remaining. The Scots responded with a big 17-2 run over the next 3:27 of action for a 35-22 lead. Sophie Koeppl hit a three-pointer with just over a minute left on the clock, but Alma closed out the half with a three-point play two possessions later for a 38-25 halftime lead.
Bella Dugas opened the third quarter with a layup to cut the deficit to 11, and Giavanna Paradiso added a layup a minute and a half later to pull the Belles within 10 at 40-30. Back-to-back buckets by the home side, however, made it a 44-30 score over the next minute of action. Alma extended their lead to 16 with 4:20 still to play in the third quarter as Saint Mary's was held without a shot from the floor over a three-minute span. Carin Kaminski and Megan Saunders began to sway the momentum back to Saint Mary's. Kaminski hit a layup off of a pass from Saunders, and Saunders drained her second three-pointer of the contest to make it 49-38. Kaminski then added a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 49-40. Caroline Macius added a pair of free throws, and Bella Dugas put a layup in and hit the and-one free throw on an extended possession to make it a five-point game (50-45) with 47 seconds left in the quarter. The Scots closed the quarter with a free throw, but the Belles were in the driver's seat with the momentum going into the final period.
Erin Maloney registered a layup, and Giavanna Paradiso had a layup of her own to make it a one-possession game at 51-49 with the Scots barely clinging onto the lead. Paradiso then pulled the Belles even at 51-51 with a layup. The defense forced the Scots into an off-balance shot and Kaminski pulled down the rebound. Olivia Lathers then drained a big three with a defender in close range to give the Belles their first lead since the 4:53 mark of the second quarter. After an Alma timeout, the Scots used a jump shot to pull within one a minute later. Lathers came up with another big response bucket with a defender in her face for a 56-53 lead. Paradiso hit two free throws to extend the advantage to 58-53, but the Scots came back to tie it at both 58-58 and 60-60. With under three minutes remaining in the quarter, the Belles went on a decisive 7-0 run over the span of 2:12. Bella Dugas had a free throw, Sophie Koeppl drained a shot in the lane, and Erin Maloney iced a pair of free throws to give the Belles a 67-60 lead with 41 seconds on the clock. The Scots used a timeout to advance the ball and scored a quick layup, but Sophie Koeppl sunk two free throws to keep Saint Mary's ahead by seven at 69-62. Alma came up empty-handed on their next possession, and Bella Dugas gave the Belles their largest lead of the game at 70-62 with 20 seconds to play. Alma countered with a layup after advancing the ball again with a timeout, but this time Giavanna Paradiso hit both ends of a double-bonus trip to the charity stripe for a 72-64 advantage with nine seconds remaining. The Scots scored a late jump shot, but the Belles prevailed in the end with a 72-66 victory.
The Belles held a 28-19 scoring margin over the Scots in points off of turnovers and a 19-10 edge in second-chance points. Saint Mary's connected on 27-of-33 free throws (81.8 percent) while Alma posted a 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) effort at the charity stripe. Additionally, the Belles outscored the Scots by a 47-28 clip over the third and fourth quarters of play.
Giavanna Paradiso led all players with 24 points and added eight rebounds and three assists. Bella Dugas notched her second double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Olivia Lathers added a season-high eight points, and Erin Maloney tallied five points, four rebounds, and four steals as nine different players for Saint Mary's had at least two points.
The Belles (4-6, 2-2 MIAA) take a break from conference play and are back in action on Monday when they face cross-town foe IU-South Bend at 1:00 p.m. at Angela Athletic & Wellness Complex.