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Belles Hold Off Late Surge by Bulldogs

Nikki Murphy dribbles the ball up the court while directing the offense.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team halted a 10-0 run by visiting Adrian in the fourth quarter and staved off another late push by the Bulldogs in a 66-61 win at home on Wednesday night.
Maddie Rzepka hit a jumper in the lane on the Belles' first possession, and Jade Mosier hit a free throw and a three-pointer in the span of less than a minute to give the Belles a 6-5 lead early. That three-pointer was the catalyst for a 10-run over the next five minutes of play by Saint Mary's as Giavanna Paradiso and Bella Dugas hit a pair of two-point buckets before Rzepka and Olivia Lathers went back-to-back from behind the arc. Lathers hit a tough-angle layup in transition late in the quarter, and Paradiso beat the buzzer with a jump shot to give the Belles a 20-10 advantage after one period of play.
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to six points twice in the opening two minutes of the second quarter. Bella Dugas converted a three-point play on an offensive board and put-back effort to put the Belles ahead 25-16. Maddie Rzepka then sunk her second three-pointer of the game two possessions later for a 28-18 lead by the home side. Paradiso added back-to-back buckets a short while later for a 12-point lead with four minutes remaining in the quarter. The junior co-captain added two more buckets over the final two minutes of the stanza as the Belles carried a 36-24 lead into the halftime break.
The sides traded three-pointers to open the third quarter with Nikki Murphy connecting from long distance for Saint Mary's. The Bulldogs put consecutive buckets on the stat sheet to make it a 39-31 score, but the Belles responded with a 9-0 run as Saint Mary's built the largest lead of the game at 48-31. Paradiso, Dugas, and Christina Shadid all chipped in points during that spurt. The Bulldogs closed the gap by five points with a late three-pointer as the game moved to the final period with the Belles leading 50-38.
Paradiso converted a three-point play, and Bella Dugas used an extended possession to power her way to a layup as the Belles held a 55-40 lead with just under eight minutes remaining on the clock. The Bulldogs, however, rattled off a 10-0 run over the next 3:09 to make it a five-point game at 55-50 with 4:36 to play. Paradiso converted another three-point play - this time with a reverse layup and free throw - to stop the run and keep the Belles up by multiple possessions with 3:05 on the clock. Maddie Rzepka hit a key jumper in the paint on the next Saint Mary's possession to push the lead to double-digits at 60-50. Adrian got back on the scoreboard more than a minute later with a jumper in the paint for a 60-52 score, but Nikki Murphy hit both ends of a trip to the charity stripe to regain a 62-52 advantage with 45 seconds on the clock. An Adrian three-pointer with 18 seconds remaining edged the Bulldogs within five at 64-59 as the teams spent some time at the free throw line, but Murphy connected with two clutch free throws with 15 seconds to go to all but secure the win. Adrian used a last-second put-back shot to make the final score tighter than it was after Murphy's free throws as the Belles prevailed 66-61.
Giavanna Paradiso led all players with 24 points and had a team-best eight rebounds. Bella Dugas added 12 points and six rebounds, and Maddie Rzepka posted 10 points and seven rebounds. Nikki Murphy narrowly missed out on a double-digit scoring effort with nine points while adding four assists with zero turnovers, four rebounds, and a steal.
The Belles (8-11, 5-5 MIAA) have a bye in their conference schedule this Saturday and return to play on Wednesday, February 5 when they host Calvin at 7:00 p.m.