NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Visiting North Park University pulled within two points of the Belles twice in the final minute of play, but the Jade Mosier pulled down a big defensive rebound and hit both free throws to lift the Saint Mary's basketball team to a 57-53 win over the Vikings on Wednesday afternoon.
The opening quarter was a back-and-forth battle as neither team established larger than a three-point lead. Bella Dugas opened the scoring with a layup, and Sophie Koeppl put the Belles up 5-2 with an NBA-range three from the right wing. Dugas added another layup a short while later as the score stood at 7-4 in favor of Saint Mary's. The Vikings responded with back-to-back layups for their first lead at 8-7 with under six minutes remaining. A three-pointer by Megan Saunders gave the lead back to the Belles, but North Park countered with consecutive shots in the paint for a 12-10 advantage with just over three minutes remaining. Dugas hit two free throws, and Caroline Macius made the most of a trip to the charity stripe with a pair of free throws of her own to put the Belles ahead 14-12 with a minute and a half remaining in the period. Dugas pushed the lead to 16-12 on the final possession of the quarter for Saint Mary's with a put-back jumper in the layup as the Belles held the four-point advantage at the first break.
Neither team was able to generate much offense in the second quarter. Giavanna Paradiso got on the scoreboard with a free throw early in the period, and Erin Maloney drained a three-pointer at the top of the key almost three minutes later for a 20-12 Saint Mary's advantage. Carin Kaminski chipped in a mid-range jumper, and Bella Dugas gave the Belles their largest lead at 24-12 with under five minutes remaining in the quarter. The Vikings responded with points on their next three possessions to cut the lead to 24-18, but Kelsie Bies hit a tough jump shot in the lane to keep the home side up by multiple possessions late in the quarter. A quick bucket in transition by North Park made it 26-20 with under a minute remaining, but neither team was able to get off a shot over the final 40 seconds of the quarter as the Belles took the six-point lead to the locker rooms.
The Vikings came out of the halftime break and opened the third period seven consecutive points to claim a 27-26 lead 2:31 into the stanza. Caroline Macius responded with a strong post move on the right block to give the lead back to the Belles, but a jump shot and a free throw a minute later swung the lead back to North Park at 30-28 with 5:46 on the clock. Giavanna Paradiso converted a three-point play, and Erin Maloney hit a free throw to tie the game a short while to tie the score at 32-32. North Park put consecutive baskets on the scoreboard for a four-point lead, but the Belles came back with a jumper by Maloney, two free throws by Jade Mosier, and a layup by Paradiso to knot the game at 38-38 going into the final quarter.
The Belles carried the momentum built late in the third quarter into the fourth stanza as Paradiso and Mosier made it a 43-38 Belles lead early. After two free throws and a fastbreak layup by Paradiso two minutes later made it a 47-42 score, the Vikings edged within three points for the third time in the period with a layup. Megan Saunders juked her defender along the right side of the court on the next possession and drained the step-back three-pointer in front of her own bench to give the Belles a six-point lead. Nearly two minutes later, Erin Maloney then put the bow on top of a solid and patient offensive set by the Belles with a three-pointer of her own at the top of the key to push the advantage to nine at 53-44 with 3:44 to play. Seven consecutive points by North Park over the next 2:52, however, put the Vikings right back in the mix at 53-51 with 52 seconds remaining. The Belles ran their next offensive play to near perfection, and that set yielded an open layup for Bella Dugas with 34 seconds left on the clock after Maloney threaded the needle with a perfect pass through the lane. The Vikings drew a foul on the next possession and made both free throws to keep the game tight at 55-53, but both sides missed their next two free throws as the score stood that same margin with under ten seconds remaining. After the second missed free throw of that stretch by North Park, Jade Mosier pulled down a big defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. The junior sunk both free throws to give Saint Mary's the four-point lead, and the Belles forced the Vikings into a late turnover to take the 57-53 win.
The Belles posted a 42.2 percent shooting effort from the floor and were 14-of-18 (77.8 percent) from the free throw line while the Vikings connected on 31.1 percent of their shots from the floor and were 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from the charity stripe. North Park collected 22 points off of 29 Saint Mary's turnovers, and the Belles posted 11 points off of 17 Vikings turnovers in the contest.
Giavanna Paradiso had 12 points, six rebounds, and two assists while Bella Dugas added 12 points, five rebounds, and an assist to pace the Belles. Erin Maloney chipped in nine points with three steals and five rebounds. Jade Mosier posted seven points, and Megan Saunders tallied six points.
The Belles (5-7) are off from competition until after the Christmas holiday. Saint Mary's travels to Webster (Mo.) on Saturday, December 29 for a 1:00 p.m. CST contest against the Gorloks.