San Antonio – The St. Mary’s University men’s and women’s basketball teams will compete in the first round of the Heartland Conference Tournament on Friday at the Super Pitt on the campus of the University of North Texas. The women’s basketball team will face Montana State University-Billings at noon, while the men will take on the University of the Incarnate Word at 7:30 p.m.
After a strong finish to the regular season the Rattler women look to bring home the Heartland Conference Tournament title for the second straight season. In 2006 the Rattlers were the third seed entering the tournament, but upset second-seeded St. Edward’s and defeated Oklahoma Panhandle State in the championship game. This year they will have to win out despite entering as the fourth seed. However, the Rattlers have been red-hot of late, winning six of their last eight games, including wins over all three tournament teams. St. Mary’s is coming off a 70-62 win over Texas-Permian Basin in the final regular season game of the season.
St. Mary’s has struggled to find consistency all season, but may finally be peaking at the right time. After a 2-9 start to the season the Rattlers are 10-6 since, including a 6-2 mark over the last eight games. Natalie Gamez (So., San Antonio) leads the team and ranks fourth in the conference for scoring at 14.8 points per game. She is also fifth in the league for three-pointers made per game (1.85). Charlena Rodez (Sr., Cedar Park) adds 13.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Ashton Benford (So., Waxahachie) ranks second in the conference for rebounding at 8.3 rpg and also averages 9.8 ppg. The Rattlers rank fourth in the conference for scoring at 60.9 ppg. They are third in the league for scoring defense (62.7) and first for field goal percentage defense (38.8).
The men’s team enters play with a 16-11 overall record and an 8-4 mark in Heartland play, good for third place during the regular season. In two meetings this season between the Rattlers and the Cardinals, UIW won both games, but by a combined four points. The winner of Friday’s game will take on the winner of the St. Edward’s-Dallas Baptist semifinal, which will take place prior to St. Mary’s-UIW game, on Saturday at 6 p.m. St. Mary’s is coming off a 79-67 upset loss to Texas-Permian Basin, but still won five of their last seven games. Jarvis Lee (Sr., Houston) continues to lead the team with 11.6 points per game, while Marcus Hill (Jr., Longview) is scoring 10.3 per contest.