WICHITA, Kan. – St. Mary’s spent Saturday’s second half playing catch-up against Newman, a proposition made easier by the fact the Jets’ offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

But then, neither was the Lady Rattlers’ in a 66-59 loss – St. Mary’s first Heartland Conference defeat this season.

Jackie Edwards (So., San Antonio) led St. Mary’s with 21 points and DeAnna Patterson (Sr., Converse, Texas) added 16, while Satoria Bell led Newman with a game-high 29 points. But it was the defenses that dictated this night.

The Jets shot 37.7 percent from the field and the Lady Rattlers shot 32.8 in a clash that saw Newman (14-2, 3-0 in conference) lead the entire second half en route to ending St. Mary’s five-game winning streak.

St. Mary’s (8-11, 3-1) did lead by as many as six in the first half and trailed by two, 32-30, at the half. But Newman wouldn’t relinquish its lead in the second frame, pulling ahead by eight, 43-35, seven minutes into the half and never looking back.

The Lady Rattlers got back within three, 51-48, on a pair of Edwards free throws with eight minutes remaining, but that was as close as St. Mary’s got.

Still, for a young Lady Rattlers team (seven of the 10 players who played Saturday were freshmen or sophomores), this game only served to show they are not far away from joining the conference’s elite. And that’s a major statement considering they started the year by dropping nine of their first 10 games.

But St. Mary’s has come a long way since then, as their talented pieces are starting to come together to form a promising puzzle. Patterson’s outside shot and veteran leadership is shining through; Edwards is proving to be the scorer the Lady Rattlers hoped; and Morgan Pullins (Fr., Franklin, Mich.), who scored nine against Newman, has become a presence down low.

The Lady Rattlers might travel home this weekend sensing an opportunity lost. But for this young squad that has suddenly caught fire, a single-digit loss to one of the conference’s frontrunners might just go to show what all they have to look forward to over the next month.

St. Mary’s will be back in action Thursday, when it hosts Arkansas-Fort Smith at 7:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.

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