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Belles Hold Off Scots in MIAA Opener

Giavanna Paradiso dribbles the ball as an Alma player defends her closely.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team withstood a late rally by visiting Alma as the Belles prevailed in a 55-51 home win in the conference opener for both teams.
Alma scored on the first possession of the game and added a bucket three minutes later to take a pair of two-point advantages early on in the contest. Another layup by the Scots made it a 6-2 game with 5:23 on the clock. Christina Shadid drained a step-back three-pointer on the next possession by the Belles, and Shadid added a good jump shot on the left wing after a kick-out pass by Giavanna Paradiso to give Saint Mary's a 10-8 lead with 3:40 remaining in the period. Both sides hit a two-minute scoreless stretch before Giavanna Paradiso sunk two free throws for a 12-8 advantage. Shadid connected from long distance again to give Saint Mary's a 15-8 lead through the first ten minutes of play.
The visiting Scots edged within a point of the Belles at 15-14, but Devan Buda hit a mid-range jump shot to keep Saint Mary's ahead early in the second quarter. Alma countered with a pair of free throws, but a Maddie Rzepka jumper was followed by a pair of free throws by Bella Dugas as the Belles edged ahead 21-16 with 3:20 remaining in the stanza. Dugas added to the lead with an offensive rebound and put-back layup with under 30 seconds to play before the break, but the Scots made it a five-point game at halftime with a late jumper to make it 23-18.
Paradiso, Shadid, and Rzepka combined to score the first five points for the Belles in the third quarter as Saint Mary's held a 28-22 lead three minutes into the period. A minute later, Bella Dugas got a friendly bounce off of the rim as the sophomore sunk a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Belles an eight-point lead. A free throw by Dugas a short while later made it a 32-23 game midway through the quarter. The Scots used four consecutive free throws over the next minute to cut the deficit to five, but Jade Mosier converted both ends of a trip to the charity stripe to put the home side up 34-27. Alma scored on their next possession, but Mosier had the answer again - this time with a three-pointer in front of the bench - to keep Saint Mary's ahead with a multiple-possession lead. The Scots responded with a three-pointer of their own to again make it a five-point lead. Kelsie Bies, however, banked in a three-pointer on the next possession to give the Belles a 40-32 lead. Neither team was able to get a shot to fall over the final minute of the quarter as Saint Mary's carried that same eight-point advantage into the final frame.
A three-pointer by Alma again made it a five-point difference in the score 1:27 into the fourth period. Giavanna Paradiso hit a layup and added a pair of free throws a short while later. Christina Shadid added a layup after a turnover by the Scots to put the Belles ahead 46-36 with 6:19 on the clock. Bella Dugas than added a layup of her own more than a minute later, and Giavanna Paradiso converted a pair of free throws to give Saint Mary's a game-best 12-point lead at 50-38 with 4:23 remaining. After a timeout by the Scots, Alma tallied a pair of quick buckets to start an 11-0 run over the span of 3:10 as the Belles held a 50-49 lead with under two minutes on the clock. The Scots missed a three-pointer and a layup as the Belles collected a pair of big defensive rebounds late in the contest. The second of those rebounds came down to Bella Dugas, who quickly started a scoring chance in transition for the Belles. Dugas hit Maddie Rzepka with a bounce pass at the other end of the floor, and Rzepka sunk the fastbreak layup to put Saint Mary's up 52-49 with under a minute to go. Alma used a second-chance opportunity on their next possession to hit a layup and edge within a point yet again. Both sides turned the ball over on their next possession, and Nikki Murphy hit a free throw with 21 seconds on the clock to make it a 53-51 game. Alma missed a layup on their next chance, and Maddie Rzepka tied up an Alma player on the rebound as the possession arrow pointed in favor of the Belles. Rzepka played the ensuing in-bound pass over the defense for Giavanna Paradiso, and Paradiso was fouled as she dribbled up the court to try to run out the clock. The junior then sunk both free throws with three seconds remaining to secure the win for the Belles.
Saint Mary's out-rebounded Alma by a 46-34 margin on the night. The Scots held a 26-16 scoring edge in the paint, but the Belles hit twice as many three-pointers (6) as Alma (3) while connecting on more free throws (15) than the Scots (8).
Giavanna Paradiso shared game-high honors with 14 points while going 8-for-8 from the free throw line to help lift Saint Mary's to the victory. Christina Shadid chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds while Bella Dugas scored 10 points and added seven boards. Maddie Rzepka narrowly missed out on a double-double with nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Belles (4-4, 1-0 MIAA) are home again on Saturday when they host Trine at 3:00 p.m. for a conference contest.