FORT SMITH, Ark. – The Lady Rattlers’ second encounter with the No. 2-seeded University of Arkansas-Fort Smith resulted in a tough familiarity of defeat Saturday, as St. Mary’s fell 63-57 on the road.
But the Rattlers will likely get one more look at the squad – in next month’s Heartland Conference tournament.
Recent victories over top-seeded Newman University in a heart-pounding overtime success and a century-mark win over Oklahoma Panhandle State secured St. Mary’s (12-15, 7-4 in conference) place in the tournament, as well as seeing if the third time’s a charm in another faceoff against the Lions (17-7, 9-3 in conference), as the teams might well meet in the opening round of the Heartland Tournament.
The Lions didn’t see a shortcoming of the Rattlers’ performance on Saturday however, as St. Mary’s opened up a 13-point lead early in the second half before seeing the Lions stage an impressive comeback.
Jackie Edwards (So., San Antonio) led the afternoon in scoring, not only for St. Mary’s but for both teams with 15 points that included three 3-pointers. DeAnna Patterson (Sr., Converse, Texas) also led both squads in 3’s with four for a total of 14 points, also topping the Lions’ lead scorer. The Rattlers third-leading scorer, Kathryn Galindo (So., San Antonio), also was above the Lions’ top scorer with 13 points, going 6 of 8 from the floor.
St. Mary’s eye for the bucket Saturday saw a close game throughout, leading the Lions at the half, 31-28. The Rattlers sparked in the second, inching closer and closer toward securing a higher rank in the conference standings. Five out of the eight total 3-pointers for St. Mary’s came in the second, giving it a lead by as much as 13.
But the Lions responded, gaining the upper hand with only six minutes remaining on the clock to the lead the Rattlers for the first time in the game to go on a six-point run with two minutes left to end the battle, 63-57.
The Rattlers saw a loss of powerhouse Morgan Pullins (Fr., Franklin, Mich.) after 15 minutes of play due to fouls, but fouls were a topic of a concern for the entire squad however. The Rattlers had 20 total fouls for the day compared to the Lions’ 11 that saw St. Mary’s go to the line a mere five times to the Lions’ 23 appearances.
Foul discrepancy or not, the Rattlers’ loss Saturday does not reduce their chances for success in the tournament but should prepare them further with the confidence of knowing they can bring a challenge to anyone.
St. Mary’s plays its last conference game of the season next Saturday against Texas A&M International in Laredo, Texas. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m.