Heading into the end of January, the St. James girls were faced with a brutal stretch that saw eleven straight opponents hold records of above .500.
In those eleven games, St. James saw their record fall from 7-6 to 9-15.
On Friday night, St. James was dispatched by #17 ranked St. Peter 59-38.
After trailing by just nine at halftime, St. Peter's three-point shooting came to life, springing a 19-point victory.
Kelsey Grunewald led the Saints with 12 points. Kaydi Anderson and Taylor Sodeman each had seven. Anderson also hauled in eight boards.
The following night, St. James was knocked off by Sleepy Eye 65-52.
The Indians pulled ahead 11-2 early on, but an 8-0 run by the red and black cut the lead to one.
Sleepy Eye would once again pull away, outpacing St. James 24-10 the rest of the half, taking a 35-18 lead into the break. Sleepy Eye extended their lead up to 24 before a rally by the visitors cut the lead down to nine.
The Indians regathered and recomposed to finally outlast the Saints. Brittany Dittbenner hit eight free throws in the final four minutes to help fend off the rally.
Kaydence Theims scored 20 to lead all scorers. Dittbenner finished with 19. Kadence Hesse scored 14.
Sodeman and Chloe Mickelson each scored 10.
On Tuesday against Windom, St. James once ahead had a chance to break their losing streak.
Both offenses started hot in a fast-paced opening five. Chloe Mickelson buried a corner three to start the game, and, in the process, broke the school record for most threes in a season with 52, breaking the record held by Lisa Olson, set in 1996.
Windom threatened to blow the game open early with a 10-2 run, powered by back-to-back threes from Allison Letcher.
Taylor Sodeman responded with a pair threes and found Jaelyn Haler for an easy layup to cut the lead back down to six.
Letcher struck again with another deep three and an old-fashioned three-point play, putting the Eagles up 12.
Behind 15 first-half points from Letcher, Windom led 44-34 at half time.
Down by eight and looking for a spark, coach Steve Witcraft turned to his young bench in freshmen Sodeman and Addie Bowers, sophomore Haler, junior Torri Mohwinkel, and seventh-grader Madelyn Malmgren.
The young Saints did not shy away from the moment. Bowers connected first, followed by Malmgren and Sodeman to cut the lead to six. Malmgren and Sodeman matched every Eagle score with one of their own, keeping St. James within striking distance.
"[Malmgren] works hard and she wants to learn. Going against Kaydi, Lunden [Swanson], and Kelsey every day in practice is making her better. She needs to get reps against players that are going to make her better and they do. When Kaydi moves on, Lunden and Madelyn are ready to step in and they proved tonight they are very capable of handling varsity minutes."
Sodeman converted with 9:00 remaining, and another score by Malmgren cut the lead to 62-60. A big-time three from Letcher momentarily quieted the crowd, but Sodeman and Haler combined to cut the lead down to just one, as Witcraft rode with his bench for over five minutes.
"I thought they gave us a lot of energy and that was our goal," said Witcraft. "I played Lunden in the first half and Madelyn in the second half. We have some really good underclassmen and I think they've proven now that they can get some playing on varsity. We know what Torri gives us and she does a really good job. Taylor is only a freshman and she plays like a junior or a senior most of the time."
With a chance to take the lead with under 7:00 left, a costly turnover from Sodeman led to a fast break layup by Kaitlee Huska. With 6:00 left, Witcraft reinserted his starters, hoping his vets would provide the boost needed to finally get ahead of the now battle-tested Eagles.
Another timely bucket from Letcher had the visitors up five, and a three from Shelby Erickson proved to be the dagger, as Windom escaped with a hard-fought 80-67 win.
Letcher led all scorers with 27 points.
Sodeman scored 16 to lead St. James. Haler had 13. Anderson finished with eight and seven blocks. Grunewald and Malmgren each scored eight. Mickelson finished with six and will look to add to her record-breaking season in the final two games of the regular season.
The loss is the seventh in a row for St. James, with just two games left to break the ten win barrier. Awaiting St. James in those final two games is 9-13 New Ulm and 2-19 Blue Earth.