The St. Mary’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, champions of the Heartland Conference, both fell in opening round action in the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Rattler men (17-13), seeded eighth in the South Central Regional, lost to top-seed Tarleton State 56-43 while the St. Mary’s women (22-7), the seventh seed in the regional, fell to second-seed Angleo State 81-65.
Men’s Summary: At the D-II Men’s National Tournament South Central Regional, the Rattlers’ season came to an end with a loss to the Texans in Tarleton’s home gym. The Rattlers had an early 5-2 lead, but Tarleton rallied to take a 20-8 lead before heading into halftime up by nine, 27-18. The Texans did not let up in the second half, building an 18-point lead, 48-30 with 9:50 left. The Rattlers mounted a comeback, mounting a 8-1 run to pull within 11, 49-38, but the Texans shut St. Mary’s down and held on for the 13-point victory. The Rattlers were held to 32-percent shooting, including 2 of 20 three-point attempts. Pedro Brito led St. Mary’s with 17 points while the Rattlers’ leading scorers Ben McCain and Billy White where held to just five points each.
Women’s Summary: At the D-II Women’s National Tournament South Central Regional, the Rattlers led 43-39 early in the second half, but Angelo State’s Natalja Tsurbakova scored eight unanswered points to put the Rambelles up by four, 47-43. The Rattlers rallied back to lead 56-55 with eight minutes left, but ASU dominated the rest of the game, point going on a 20-3 scoring run to lead 75-59 with two minutes left. ASU’s Tsurbakova scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half before fouling out with three minutes left. Neno Anguiano led St. Mary’s with 16 points, followed by Martha Brinker with 14 and Meosha Nash with 12. Angelo State advances to the regional semi-finals against Heartland Conference runner-up Drury.
Rattlers advance with conference championships
The St. Mary’s men’s and women’s basketball teams won their respective Heartland Conference Championship Tournaments on March 8 to give both teams their second Heartland Conference titles and their second bids to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Rattler men defeated Incarnate Word 57-47 at home while the Rattler women picked up an 83-81 victory on the road over nationally-ranked Drury.
During the first two years of the Heartland Conference there was no post-season tournament to decide the conference championship, so the regular season leaders were the official conference champions. The Rattler men were regular season co-champs in 2001 and the Rattler women posted a 10-0 conference mark in 2002. The 2001 men’s team and 2002 women’s team advanced to the D-II tournament on at-large bids; 2003 is the first year that the Heartland Champions received automatic bids.
Rattler Team Leaders
The Rattler men’s leading scorers are freshman post Ben McCain (13.7 ppg), sophomore post Billy White (13.1) and junior post Pedro Brito (10.5). White had been the leading scorer for much of the season, but McCain has averaged 19.7 points per game over the last three games to pass up White. Junior wing Johnny Crawford has been comming off the bench to lead the team with 64.2 percent shooting from the floor, while McCain is the leading field goal shooter among the Rattler starters hitting 56.6 percent. The Rattlers as a team hit 49.7 percent of their field goals and ended the regular season ranked 11th in the nation in field goal shooting. White leads the team in three-point shooting, hitting 47 of 114, just ahead of junior guard Anthony Weeaks who has hit 45 of 111 long-balls. Sophomore wing Bryant Baker leads the time at the free-throw line, hitting 77.6 percent. White leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.4 per game. He also has 59 steals on the season (2.03 per game). McCain leads the team with 1.38 blocks per game while junior guard Ky O’Dell leads the team in assists with 4.38 per game.
The St. Mary’s women are led in scoring by junior post Erin Griffin (15.4 ppg). Griffin, a 2002 Kodak All-American, was recently selected for the South Central All-Region second team for the second straight year. Other Rattlers averaging double digits are seinor guard Meosha Nash (13.3), senior post Martha Brinker (13.2) and sophomore guard Nicole Brantley (11.1). Brinker is shooting 62.8 percent from the floor, the fourth best mark in D-II. Nash leads the team in free throw shooting, hitting 80.4 percent, while Griffin has sunk the most from the line, hitting 95 of 127 (74.8 percent). Griffin is also the teams leading rebounder, averaging 9.1 per game. Brantley and Nash, the team’s leading three-point field goal shooters are among the top three-point shooters in the nation. As of the end of the regular season, Brantley was ranked 11th in three-point percentage and ranked 15th in three-pointers per game with Nash close behind at 18th. Brinker leads the team in blocks with 26 while Griffin has the most steals with 64 and senior guard Neno Anguiano leads the team in assists with 4.9 per game.