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Belles Steady Down the Stretch in Win Over Comets

Nikki Murphy dribbles as a defending player closes in from the left.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's basketball team came up with key responses to runs in the third and fourth quarters as the Belles claimed a 60-50 conference win over visiting Olivet on Saturday afternoon.
After back-and-forth play over the first five minutes led to an 8-7 Saint Mary's lead, the Belles used a 9-2 scoring spurt over the final 4:30 of the quarter to establish a 17-9 lead through the first ten minutes of action. Bella Dugas connected on a back-door layup off of a pass from Nikki Murphy, and an offensive board by Murphy led to a layup by Devan Buda a minute later for a 12-7 Saint Mary's advantage. Giavanna Paradiso drained a three-pointer on the next possession by the Belles, and an offensive rebound and put-back layup by Mosier with 1:33 in the quarter gave the home side the 17-9 lead going into the second period.
A layup by Olivia Lathers to open the second quarter gave Saint Mary's their first double-digit lead of the game at 19-9, but five consecutive points by the Comets halved the lead to five at 19-14 just 1:43 into the stanza. Lathers ensured the Belles maintained a multi-possession lead with a good jump shot, and a pair of free throws by Giavanna Paradiso less than a minute later kept the Saint Mary's ahead by seven points at 23-16. The Comets edged within five points for the third time in the quarter at 23-18, but Bella Dugas connected on a free throw before converting a three-point play for a 27-18 Saint Mary's lead with 4:36 on the clock. Paradiso sunk two more free throws to push the lead back to double-digits with more than two minutes remaining before the half. Olivet, however, capitalized on a second-chance opportunity on their next possession to make it a 29-20 score. Neither team was able to get a shot to fall over the final two minutes of the quarter as the score stood at 29-20 at the half.
Saint Mary's opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run to establish a 38-22 lead with 4:52 on the clock. Jade Mosier tallied five points while Paradiso accounted for four points during that scoring spurt which saw the Belles take the largest lead of the game. The Comets, however, responded with a 10-2 run of their own in a span of 1:07 to make it a 40-32 score. Bella Dugas and Giavanna Paradiso each powered their way to a layup to extend the lead back to ten points at 42-32 and 44-34, respectively, as Saint Mary's took a ten-point advantage into the final quarter.
An offensive rebound and put-back by Paradiso to open the fourth quarter made it 46-34, but the Comets connected on a three-pointer on their next possession to pull within nine points early in the period. Maddie Rzepka connected on a mid-range jump shot for the Belles, and Bella Dugas and Jade Mosier put the next five points on the scoreboard as Saint Mary's matched the largest lead of the game at 53-37 with 5:43 to play. Olivet made one final push over the next three minutes to pull within nine points at 53-44 with 2:42 remaining, but Mosier and Dugas combined for five more points over the next 1:37 of play to give the home side a 58-44 lead with a minute to go in the game. The Comets used a late three-pointer and two free throws with 0.3 remaining to make it 60-50 as the Belles prevailed at home in the conference contest.
Saint Mary's connected on 13-of-16 attempts from the free throw line while Olivet made 5-of-7 at the charity stripe in the contest. The Belles held a 37-31 edge in rebounds in the game with a 14-12 advantage in offensive rebounds. Those extended possessions led to a 14-5 scoring margin for Saint Mary's in second-chance points in the game.
The Belles had three players post double-digit scoring efforts in the win. Giavanna Paradiso led all players with 18 points while going 5-of-5 from the free throw line. Jade Mosier tallied a season-high 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Bella Dugas chipped in 13 points and shared game-high honors with nine rebounds while matching her career-high with three blocked shots. Maddie Rzepka had a team-best three steals while posting six points and four rebounds with no turnovers.
The Belles (6-7, 3-1 MIAA) are back in action on Saturday, January 11 when they travel to Calvin for a 3:00 p.m. conference game.