The St. Mary’s men’s and women’s basketball teams swept Incarnate Word at home on March 1 to finish the regular season and clinch high spots in the upcoming Heartland Conference Tournaments. The Rattler women (20-6, 8-2) rallied from behind for a 63-59 victory over the Crusaders (15-11, 5-5) while the St. Mary’s men (15-12, 8-2) also overcame a halftime deficit to pull out a 50-45 victory over Incarnate Word (19-7, 6-4).
The victories gave Buddy’s Boys the unoffical Heartland Conference regular season title while the women’s team finished second in conference play. Both teams will host semi-final games in the conference tournament on Wednesday, March 5. The tournaments pit the first and fourth seeds in one semi-final and the second and third seeds at the other with the finals to be held at the home court of the highest remaining seed in each tournament. The winner of each tournament is the official conference champion and recipient of an automatic bid to the NCAA National Tournament.
In the women’s bracket, #1-seed Drury will host #4 Incarnate Word and #2 St. Mary’s will host #3 Lincoln in the semis on March 5. The Rattlers and Blue Tigers tip-off at 6 p.m. in Bill Greehey Arena. In the men’s bracket, #1 St. Mary’s hosts #4 Drury and #2 Rockhust hosts #3 Incarnate Word, also on March 5. The Rattlers and Panthers meet at 8 p.m. in Bill Greehey Arena. The finals will be held Saturday, March 8. Additional tournament information and full conference results and statistics can be found at www.heartlandsports.org.
The Incarnate Word Women held the momentum in the first half of Saturday’s game, taking a 26-21 halftime lead after holding the Rattlers to only 27-percent field goal shooting, including 1 of 11 three-point attempts. As the second half opened things continued to look bad for the Rattlers as starting guard Neno Anguiano and All-American post Erin Griffin had to hit the bench after picking up their fourth fouls. The Rattlers responded by turning to their inside game and senior post Martha Brinker. Brinker scored repeatedly off shots taken in the paint while drawing fouls from the Crusader’s inside defenders, including Shamieka Buckley, who fouled out with over eight minutes left, and Blair Redmon who fouled out with just over four minutes remaining. Brinker finished the night with with double double for the Rattlers – 26 points and 11 rebounds. The Rattlers second-half momentum swing included a 14-0 to take a lead they never relinqushed. The Rattlers’ improved to 53.6-percent shooting in the second half whild holding the Crusaders to 28.6-pecent shooting; the Crusaders had shot 40.7-percent in the first. Meosha Nash, who played all 40 minutes for St. Mary’s, added 11 points while Amy Mueller led UIW with 18 points.
The men’s game was a classic St. Mary’s-UIW matchup with both teams playing a swarming defense that forces the other team to use up the shot clock and that makes every possesion count. The Crusaders opened with a 7-0 run but Rattlers mounted a comback quickly tying the game before conceeding a 23-21 halftime lead to UIW. The Rattlers would take their first lead with 11 minutes left in the game and the Crusaders responded by tying the game several times but were unable to regain a lead of their own. The Rattlers all but clinched the victory, and the conference top seed, with a 7-0 run with under four minutes left for a 46-39 lead. UIW battled back to a three-point deficit with six second remaining but Bryant Baker sunk two free-throws for the Rattlers with three seconds left to seal the deal. “Big Game” Ben McCain, a strong contender for conference freshman of the year honors, led St. Mary’s with 15 points and sophomore Billy White added 12 points for the home team. D’ Hudson led the Crusaders with 17 points, most of which he scored in the first half.
With one week left in the regular season, the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team (14-12, 7-2) again has the Heartland Conference lead all to itself while the St. Mary’s women (19-6, 7-2) are holding strong in second place. The Rattler men finish the regular season on March 1, when Incarnate Word pays a visit to Bill Greehey Arena. In their first pairings this season, on Feb. 1, the Rattler men defeated Incarnate Word 70-55, while the St. Mary’s women fell to the Crusaders 66-60 in overtime. St. Mary’s has won four of the last five games versus the Lady Crusaders while the Rattler men carry a three of five mark.
The men’s and women’s Heartland Conference Tournaments are scheduled for the week of March 3-7 with four teams advancing to each bracket. The semi-finals will pit the #4 seed at the #1 seed and the #3 at #2, with the finals played at the highest-remaining seeds’ home courts.
On Feb. 22, the Rattler men grabbed the conference lead thanks to the combination of their 81-57 home victory over St. Edward’s and Rockhurst’s 93-90 overtime loss at Drury. The now second-place Rockhurst Hawks (16-10, 6-3) finish their regular season against fifth-place Lincoln (12-12, 4-5) on March 1.The Hawks are tied with Incarnate Word (18-6, 6-3) while Drury sits in fourth at 5-5 in Heartland play, 10-16 overall. St. Edward’s (4-22, 0-10) rounds out the men’s standings in sixth.
The Rattler women, 88-50 victors over St. Edward’s (6-20, 0-10), will finish in second place as #15 Drury (24-3, 9-1) ended its regular season with a 90-60 victory over Rockhurst on Feb. 22. The Incarnate Word and Lincoln women are tied for third with 5-4 conference marks. Rockhurst sits in fifth at 2-7, 6-20 overall while St. Edward’s holds the sixth spot.
The St. Mary’s women were sparked in their 38-point home victory over St. Edward’s this past Saturday by Martha Brinker. A senior post from Corpus Christi, Brinker came off the bench to lead St. Mary’s with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Nicole Brantley added five three-pointers to finish with 17 points and eight assists. St. Mary’s out-rebounded the Hilltoppers 47-17 and made 24 of 27 free-throws. while St. Ed’s connected on five of only 11 attempts from the line. In the men’s nightcap, the Buddy’s Boys opened with a 15-0 run and never let the Hilltoppers back into the game. Pedro Brito scored 14 points in the first half and finished the Rattlers’ high-scorer with 20 points. Jamez Tealer added 14 points. St. Mary’s shot 56 percent from the floor with holding SEU to 36 percent.
Earlier in the week the Rattler men and women enjoyed routs of Oklahoma Panhandle State on Feb. 20. The women’s team clobbered the Aggies by sixty, 96-36.. The Rattlers shot 54.7 percent on the night while holding the Aggies to just 22.2 percent. St. Mary’s outrebounded OPSU by 29, 55-26. Rattler leading scorer Erin Griffin set a new team season high with 30 points after hitting 10 of 14 from the floor and setting team season highs for free-throws and free-throw attempts by hitting 10 of 12 from the line. Griffin added 13 rebounds and Martha Brinker added 23 points. The men closed out the evening with a solid 25-point victory, 98-73. Ben McCain shot 10 of 14 from the floor and three of four from the line for 23 points to lead the Rattlers. St. Mary’s led 43-25 at halftime and kept their lead to around 20 points for most the second half. Anthony Weeaks hit three three-pointers en route to adding 20 points for the home team.
Brinker was named the Heartland Conference Women’s Player of the Week after averaging 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Rattler victories over Panhandle State and St. Edward’s.
As of Feb. 22, the Rattler women are led in scoring by junior post Erin Griffin (15.1), senior guard Meosha Nash (13.1), Brinker (12.6) and sophomore guard Nicole Brantley (11.6). Nash leads the team in free-throw shooting, hitting 81.8 percent. Junior guard Neno Anguiano leads the team in assists with 120 (5 per game) and Griffin is leading rebounder with 8.9 per game. Brinker is seventh in nation in field-goal percentage, Brantley is 16th and Nash is 30th nationally in three-point field goal percentage, and Nash is 17th and Brantley is 26th in three-pointers per game. As a team the Rattlers are 12th nationally in field-goal percentage, 16th in rebound margin, 19th in three-point percentage, and 30th in three-pointers per game. The Rattlers average 74.3 point per game, a 12.2-point margin over their opponents.
As of Feb. 22, the Rattler men are led in scoring by sophomore wing Billy White (13.9), freshman post McCain (13.0 and junior post Brito (10.8); former Rattler guard Antonio Falu had a 15.2 points per game average over the first 15 games of the season. White’s 55 steals (2.2 per game) and 167 rebounds (6.7 per game) lead the team. McCain has 34 blocks, just ahead of White’s 23. Junior guard Ky O’Dell is tops in assists, averaging 4.46 per game. The Rattlers are hitting 49.9 percent of their field goals, which is 15th best in the nation. Buddy’s Boys average 74.2 points per game, a 5.9-point margin over their opponents.
Rattler men’s basketball is broadcast live on the radio via KLUP AM 930 or over the Internet via www.klup.com. Marc Hoenig and Pete Hansen make the calls.