March 5, 2006
San Antonio — In fitting fashion for these Lady Rattlers, no single player dominated Oklahoma Panhandle State to earn the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship, downing the Lady Aggies 69-64 on Saturday at Greehey Arena. Instead, St. Mary’s relied on a collective effort, highlighted by four players’ double-digit scoring performances.
With the win, the Lady Rattlers clinched an automatic bid in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
The Lady Rattlers (17-12), who led 31-29 at halftime, were led by junior post Charlena Rodez and sophomore post Flavia Azinheira, who scored 15 points apiece. Azinheira also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
Senior forward Juliett Williams and sophomore guard Juanita Merchant also scored 11 apiece.
St. Mary’s, hosting the championship tournament due to Panhandle State upsetting No. 1-ranked Montana State-Billings last Wednesday, flourished in front of the announced home crowd of 250 — and celebrated afterward by cutting down the net shortly after embracing the championship trophy.
Lady Rattlers head coach Paige Clawson, winning her third conference championship, now hosts a 94-48 mark and has enjoyed four winning seasons in her five-year tenure at St. Mary’s.
The official NCAA Division II tournament bracket will be released late Sunday night. St. Mary’s is expected to play Washburn University (30-0), last year’s national champion, in Topeka, Kan.