Looking to crack ten wins for the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the St. James girl basketball program fell short of that goal, losing to New Ulm and Blue Earth.
On Friday night against New Ulm, both sides got off to a sluggish start, but the Saints found themselves up 14-9 with 9:00 remaining in the first half.
The Eagles offense then sprung into life, closing the half on a 15-2 run, as the Saints continued their sloppy play.
"We didn't make good passes," said head coach Steve Witcraft. "We forced things that weren't there. It was everybody. We tried to force passes inside. Tried to force it Chloe [Mickelson] and Jaelyn [Haler]."
The Saints defense had no answer for senior center Olivia Wick, who torched the Saints for 12 points in the half. Wick and Nora Windschill dominated the offensive glass, keeping possessions alive as the Saints' zone defense kept them out of position to crash the defensive glass.
A 7-0 run by New Ulm pushed the lead to 32-16 before a Kaydi Anderson bucket finally put the Saints on the board in the half.
A 7-2 run from St. James showed signs of life from the hosts, but an ice-cold three from Kirsten Dennis slammed the door shut on any potential rally, as New Ulm cruised to a 58-43 victory.
Wick closed with a game-high 18. Dennis had 15. Hannah Osborne finished with nine.
Taylor Sodeman scored 11 to lead St. James, while also chipping in three assists. In her final appearance in front of the home crowd, Kaydi Anderson scored eight.
"Kaydi gives us an inside presence," said Witcraft. "She blocks shots. She gives us that presence where when people go in there they have to adjust their shots. We know she's going to get a lot of attention on the post. She's gotten doubled a lot."
Jaelyn Haler finished with two points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Torri Mohwinkel scored five and had three assists.
With the loss against New Ulm, the Saints had just one more opportunity to reach the ten-win benchmark.
"We have to find that passion that we had for most of the season," said Witcraft. "It's a long season and we seem to be waning a little bit here. I know that we're in a funk and we've played some tough teams but we haven't played up to our capability."
On Tuesday against Blue Earth, the Saints were primed to finally reach their ten-win mark against the two-win Bucs.
St. James led most of the first half.
Blue Earth got on the board first, only to see Chloe Mickelson answer with a three, and the Saints led the rest of the first half, taking a 23-17 lead at the half.
A 16-2 run by Blue Earth to open the second half had the Bucs out front 37-31. An extended 9-0 run by St. James, sparked by threes from Mohwinkel and Mickelson, as well as an old fashioned three-point play from Ellie Becker, put the Saints back on top with 5:00 to go in regulation.
The Saints and Bucs answered every punch down the stretch. A Haler free throw with 45 seconds left put the Saints up 52-47. Arika Howard responded with a three for Blue Earth with 31 seconds remaining. With 7.7 left, Mohwinkel missed the front end of a one-and-one, opening the door for Howard to strike again tying the game at 52, and sending it into overtime.
In the extra frame, a pair of clutch free throws from Jaden Barnett with 14.9 remaining had Blue Earth up 61-57. Becker canned a three with six seconds remaining. The Saints fouled Howard, who split a pair at the line, leaving the door open for the Saints to extend or win the game to no avail, as Blue Earth escaped with a dramatic 62-60 win.
Haler led the Saints with 17 points. Mickelson finished with 14.
Howard had 13, with 11 of that coming in the second half and overtime.
The Saints play in the first round of the section tournament Saturday at Luverne.