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Late Run Not Enough for Belles Against Bluejays

Maddie Rzepka shoots a three-point shot as a referee and a teammate are both visible in the photo.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team erased an eight-point deficit over the final three minutes of play but were unable to get a last-second go-ahead shot to fall as the Belles fell in a 56-52 final against Elmhurst on Wednesday evening.
Both sides had trouble getting their offenses to click early going in the contest as the game remained scoreless until Bella Dugas connected on a second-chance jumper with 7:52 on the clock in the first quarter. The Belles kept the Bluejays off the scoreboard until just under the seven-minute mark, and Elmhurst added a second bucket on their next possession for a 5-2 advantage. The teams traded points back-and-forth with Sophie Koeppl connecting from long distance and Olivia Lathers converting a pair of free throws to make it a 7-7 score with 3:43 remaining. Elmhurst hit a layup and a three-pointer, but a mid-range bucket by Christina Shadid made it a 12-9 score through ten minutes of action.
A put-back layup by Maddie Rzepka more than a minute into the second quarter edged the Belles within a point at 12-11, and Rzepka and Koeppl added back-to-back buckets a short while later to knot the game at 15-15. The teams then hit a scoreless drought of nearly three minutes before the Bluejays took the lead. Jade Mosier kept the next Saint Mary's possession alive with an offensive rebound, and Hannah Cavanaugh fed a pass to a wide-open Nikki Murphy on the block as Murphy connected with a layup to tie the game yet again at 17-17. Rzepka then added a three-pointer, and Koeppl made a pair of free throws to give the Belles a 22-17 lead with 2:17 on the clock. Elmhurst connected on a three-pointer on their next possession, and neither team was able to get another shot to fall over the remainder of the quarter as the Belles took a 22-20 lead into the halftime break.
Jade Mosier opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, and Maddie Rzepka added a trey of her own a few minutes later as Saint Mary's held a 30-26 advantage with 7:02 on the clock. The Bluejays countered with a three-pointer and a pair of layups to gain a 33-30 lead. After another scoreless stretch of two-plus minutes, Christina Shadid hit a layup to edge the Belles within one at 33-32. Elmhurst, however, closed out the final two minutes of the quarter with a 7-0 run to go ahead 40-32 through three periods of play.
The Bluejays took a pair of nine-point leads in the fourth quarter, the second of those leads coming at 49-40 with 4:25 remaining in the period. The Belles still had a lot of fight left to give in the contest. Christina Shadid connected on a jump shot, and Olivia Lathers grabbed a big offensive board before being fouled and hitting a free throw to make it 49-43 with 3:31 on the clock. The Bluejays gained an eight-point lead with a layup on their next possession, but Maddie Rzepka hit another three-pointer to re-energize the Saint Mary's side. Rzepka came up with a steal and a layup in transition a minute later, and Shadid added a steal which led to a Bella Dugas layup to make it a 51-50 game with 40 seconds remaining. Bella Dugas then came up with a big steal on an in-bounds play with 20 seconds on the clock to give the Belles a chance to take the lead. Jade Mosier hit a tough layup on that ensuing possession to put Saint Mary's up 52-51 with 15 seconds still to play. The Bluejays used a timeout to advance the ball to the front court and got a fortunate bounce off the rim for a layup with 11 seconds on the clock to gain a 53-52 lead. A turnover by Saint Mary's on the next possession forced the Belles into fouling the Bluejays in order to get the ball back late. Jade Mosier's potential game-tying three-pointer, however, was just narrowly off the mark, and Elmhurst added a late free throw for the 56-52 decision.
The Belles were held to a 30.4 percent (21-of-69) shooting effort from the floor while the Bluejays posted a 37.3 percent (22-of-59) effort.
Maddie Rzepka led all players with a season-high 17 points while also added a season-best seven rebounds. Jade Mosier added nine points and 10 rebounds. Sophie Koeppl and Olivia Lathers each notched seven points, and Christina Shadid collected six points and three steals.
The Belles (2-3) are back at home again on Saturday when they host Defiance at 1:00 p.m.