San Antonio – Jason Gant scored 20 points and the University of the Incarnate Word forced 14 St. Mary’s University turnovers as the Cardinals ended the Rattlers season with a 68-65 win in the semifinals of the Heartland Conference Tournament, played Friday night at the Super Pitt on the campus of the University of North Texas.
Incarnate Word led the entire first half, but a late run cut the deficit to just four at 32-28 at the half. St. Mary’s continued to make runs at the Cardinals in the second half and finally tied the game at 57-57 on a layup by Jarvis Lee (Sr., Houston) with 4:02 left in the game. However, the Cardinals bounced right back and increased the lead to five points at 62-57 with 2:48 left on a three-pointer by Mikyl Bradshaw.
Latez Williams (Jr., Hamilton, Ohio) cut the Cardinal lead to just one when he converted on a fast-break dunk with 1:05 left to play. However, Bradshaw drew a blocking foul on the next possession and hit both free throws to make it a 66-63 lead with 47 seconds left to play. Again back came the Rattlers and Robert Owens (So., Oakwood) cut the UIW lead to just one again with a put back of a Marcus Hill (Jr., Longview) miss with 27 seconds left. Paul Connolly was fouled on the inbounds play and he converted on both free throws to put the Cardinals up by three at 68-65 with just 22 seconds to play.
Hill had an open look at the basket from three-point range with 10 second to play, but his shot was off and Antario Williams picked up the rebound. However, Williams missed both free throws, giving the Rattlers one last chance. But Lee was unable to get off a shot before the horn sounded, ending the game.
Owens led the way for the Rattlers with 13 points and six rebounds, while Dominique Richardson (Jr., San Antonio) had 12 points and Jawan Bailey (Jr., San Antonio) and Williams each had 10 points. As a team the Rattlers shot 39.6 percent (21-53) from the field and outrebounded the Cardinals 44-21. But UIW committed just eight turnovers, while forcing the Rattlers in 14.
Gant led all players with 20 points and seven rebounds. Bradshaw and Connolly each had 14 points, while Pierce Caldwell added 11 points.
With the loss the Rattlers finished the 2006-07 season with a 16-12 record. UIW improved to 18-10 and will face St. Edward’s University in the Heartland Conference Championship game, set for 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Denton.