San Antonio – Charlena Rodez and Ashton Benford each posted double-doubles and St. Mary’s held off a stubborn Oklahoma Panhandle State University rally, for a 72-59 win in Heartland Conference women’s basketball action Thursday night at Bill Greehey Arena.

Rodez (Sr., Cedar Park) led all players with 19 points in the game and added 10 rebounds for her second straight double-double. She reached a career milestone when she scored her 1,000th career point on a layup with 3:34 left in the game. Benford (So., Waxahachie) scored 13 points and added 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.

After dominating play in the first half, the Rattlers struggled early in the second period, seeing a 16-point halftime lead close to just four points on a free throw by Nina Kuleff with 5:22 left to play in the game. The basket completed a 14-2 run for OPSU. Rodez ended the Aggie rally with a driving layup that she was fouled on for a three-point play, giving the Rattlers a 61-54 lead with 5:05 to play.

Rodez’s three-point play seemed to inspire the Rattlers as Natalie Gamez (So., San Antonio) hit a three-pointer and Benford followed with a three-point play on the next possession to increase the St. Mary’s lead to 69-56 with 2:26 to play, essentially ending the Aggies chances for a win.

Also scoring in double figures for the Rattlers was Gamez, who came off the bench to post 14 points. Chastity Noble (Fr., El Paso) and Juanita Merchant (Jr., Angleton) each had nine points in the game for the Rattlers.

Sarah Polson led the way for the Aggies with 19 points, including four three-pointers. The only other OPSU player in double figures was Kuleff with 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

After falling behind early in the first half to the Aggies, Benford keyed a 20-2 run that turned a 13-11 deficit at the 10:15 mark into a comfortable 31-15 lead with 2:35 left in the first period. Benford hit on 5-of-7 shots from the field and pulled down seven rebounds in the first half alone. The rally started with a Rodez layup to tie things at 13-13. Then Dawn Killian  (Sr., Converse) hit the first of her two first-half treys and Gamez followed with a three-pointer of her own to give the Rattlers a six-point advantage. The Rattlers forced five turnovers during that stretch and hit on 8-of-11 shots from the field. The run helped the Rattlers to a 36-20 edge at the break.

With the win the Rattlers improved to 4-9 overall and 1-0 in Heartland Conference play. They have also won three of their last four games. OPSU fell to 2-11 overall and 0-2 in HC play. The Rattlers will return to action on Saturday when they host the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in the first game of a men’s/women’s doubleheader, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.

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