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Second-Half Surge Pushes Belles Past Hornets

Sophie Koeppl, wearing an all-white uniform, dribbles past an opposing player in a black uniform as a handful of other players are visible in the background.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team out-scored visiting Kalamazoo 37-14 in the second half of action, including 20-5 in the final quarter, to claim a 70-48 conference victory over the Hornets on Wednesday evening.
Both sides played a back-and-forth first quarter. A layup by Giavana Paradiso and a jump shot by Caroline Macius gave Saint Mary's a 4-2 edge four minutes into play, but a Kalamazoo three-pointer quickly saw the Hornets gain a one-point lead. The Belles responded with the next four points with Paradiso and Jade Mosier each posting a pair to go up 8-5. Three consecutive three-pointers followed by a jump shot by Kalamazoo, however, pushed the Hornets ahead 16-8 with 2:08 remaining on the clock. Delaney Rohlman hit a back-door layup and a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to four points, but the Hornets responded with an offensive rebound and put-back jumper to go up 18-12 with half of a minute left in the period. Giavanna Paradiso pulled down a big offensive rebound and was fouled with less than a second on the clock, and the sophomore sunk a pair of free throws to make it an 18-14 score going into the first break.
Paradiso opened the second quarter with four consecutive points to tie the score at 18-18, but a quick three-pointer the other way by Kalamazoo gave the visiting Hornets a 21-18 lead on the next possession. Kalamazoo added a jump shot a minute later for a 23-18 advantage. The score stayed the same until Megan Saunders hit a three-pointer and Erin Maloney snagged a steal and made the fastbreak layup to draw the Belles even at 23-23. Carin Kaminski then gave Saint Mary's the lead with a mid-range jump shot on the next Belles possession. The Hornets responded with another three-pointer and a layup to change the lead yet again, but Paradiso converted a three-point play to tie things up at 28-28 with 2:26 on the clock. Kalamazoo almost could not miss from behind the arc, however, as the Hornets sunk yet another three-pointer on an extended possession. Kelsie Bies countered with a three-pointer of her own as the score stood at 31-31 with under two minutes remaining in the period. Sophie Koeppl then made a pair of free throws for a 33-31 Saint Mary's advantage. The Hornets had the final say in the quarter, however, as Kalamazoo hit their eighth three-pointer of the first half in the final seconds to take a 34-33 lead into halftime.
The Hornets used a layup early in the third quarter to take a 36-33 advantage, but Sophie Koeppl knotted things up with a three-pointer a short while later. Kalamazoo came back with another three-pointer - which turned out to be their final made shot from behind the arc in the game - to regain a 39-36 lead. Koeppl converted on a driving play into the lane for a layup, and Paradiso hit a free throw 30 seconds later to tie the game at 39-39. Neither side was able to get a shot to fall over the next minute-plus of play despite several chances, but Erin Maloney broke the deadlock with a three-pointer of her own to give the Belles a lead they would not relinquish. The Hornets made it a 42-41 game with a jumper a minute and a half later, but Saint Mary's used a 6-0 spurt with points by Macius and Maloney for a 48-41 advantage late in the quarter. Kalamazoo made it a five-point game with a jump shot with 20 seconds on the clock, but Jade Mosier gave Saint Mary's the momentum going into the final stanza with a layup in the final seconds of the quarter for a 50-43 Belles lead.
The Belles used a quick 7-0 burst early in the fourth quarter to turn a 52-45 lead into a 59-45 advantage as the Hornets called a full time out. That break, however, did not slow the Saint Mary's run as the home side went on to out-score Kalamazoo 18-1 over a 7:21 span in the quarter for a 70-46 lead. Seven different Saint Mary's players scored during that run, including Payten Bruni's first career point. Kalamazoo hit a pair of free throws with over a minute remaining, and neither side tallied a point over the final 70 seconds of action for the 70-48 final.
The win gives Saint Mary's their fourth-consecutive MIAA victory of the year. The last time the Belles took four conference wins in-a-row was in February 2011.
The Belles took advantage of their trips to the free throw line as Saint Mary's connected on 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) of their attempts while limiting the Hornets to a 3-of-8 (37.5 percent) effort at the charity stripe in the contest.
Giavanna Paradiso had a team-high 18 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Sophie Koeppl scored a season-high 10 points while blocking four shots and collecting two assists. Jade Mosier tallied eight points and nine rebounds, and Erin Maloney filled the stat sheet with eight points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals as she moved into third place all-time in career steals for the Belles. Eleven different players scored at least one point for Saint Mary's in the victory.

The Belles (7-8, 4-2 MIAA) are back on their home hardwood on Saturday when they host No. 11 Trine at 3:00 p.m.