WICHITA, Kan. – A sea of red and a thunderous crowd not in their favor greeted the Lady Rattlers in their semifinal game against Newman University on Friday. They weren’t in Texas anymore.
Sniffles and sighs after Friday’s game juxtaposed the laughter and excitement the two days prior on the Rattlers’ bus as their season came to halt with a 65-42 loss.
The night was Newman’s as free shirts were given to fans, the band and choir were there to support and packed seats filled with rowdy fans were all ready to boo St. Mary’s (13-16, 8-4 in conference).
But the Rattlers’ season was all but summed up in one night.
Leading the way with fight and aggressive offensive play, DeAnna Patterson (Sr., Converse, Texas) banked 11 points for the Rattlers Friday, including one 3-pointer. Patterson received All-Conference Honorable Mention the night prior to Friday’s game and with four years of Rattler experience of hard work, love and determination, she set out to do one thing against Newman.
“Leave it all out on the floor,” said Patterson, who averaged 11.3 points per game this season as the team’s second leading scorer. “We all knew potentially that (Friday) could be our last game of the season, so that was one of the main things we harped on, was to leave it all out on the floor.”
Patterson kept to her motto in the second half, as well as the rest of the Rattlers, after facing a 33-15 deficit at halftime. Despite the chants of the Jets’ (22-5, 10-2 in conference) fans that shouted everything besides “Go Rattlers,” Patterson charged to score all of her 11 points in the second half. Liz Boyd (Jr., San Antonio) hit six of her total 10 points for the night in the second and Morgan Pullins (Fr., Franklin, Mich.) also sank her five total points in the second half. The Rattlers’ fire caused them to outscore Newman in the second, 30-29, but the flame was ignited too late in the game and the Rattlers fell 62-45.
The Rattlers hit the end of the road Friday. However, it extended farther than some might have thought as they faced a shaky 1-9 start to the season with a cast of new players.
“I’m really proud of the team,” says Patterson, who is in the St. Mary’s Record Book for all-time free throw percentage and led the entire conference this season by shooting 86.7 percent from the line. “We could have really folded after starting 1-9, but we didn’t – we knew we were better than our 1-9 record. We had a big turnaround and I’m really proud of the team for it. We didn’t have as a successful season as we wanted but we had a successful season.”
St. Mary’s turnaround was best represented in receiving conference honors earlier this week – two Rattlers that were new to the cast won a pair of awards each. Pullins earned Freshman of the Year and All-Conference Second Team selection and Jackie Edwards (So., San Antonio) achieved Newcomer of the Year and All-Conference First Team selection.
St. Mary’s cast of new players held strong, helping the Rattlers earn a fourth seed and clinch a berth in the tournament. Taking on the No. 1 seed of Newman University Friday, the Rattlers can also feel pride in that out of the Jets’ only two conference losses during the regular season, one was an upset caused by the Rattlers in overtime at Bill Greehey Arena.
Starting the season as the underdog to go on claim a victory over potentially the next Heartland Conference champion of Newman University a few months later to extending their season to the semifinals could not have been felt in Friday’s game alone.
With the loss behind and the tears brushed away, the smiles will eventually return to the St. Mary’s women’s basketball team. And then, the Rattlers can take on a new season with a cast of experienced, award-winning players, and a season that proved just how far they could go.