Rattlers Set to Face Billings at HC Tournament: After a strong finish to the regular season St. Mary’s looks 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 offa 70-62 win over Texas-Permian Basin in the final regular season game of the season.

About St. Mary’s: 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 leads the team and ranks fourth in the conference for scoring at 14.8 ppg. She is also fifth in the league for three-pointers made per game (1.85).Charlena Rodez adds 13.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Ashton Benford 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).

About Montana State-Billings: The Yellowjackets are the HLC regular season champions with a 7-3 league record. They are 20-9 overall. Alira Carpenter leads the league in scoring at 17.2 ppg. Michelle Lieber ranks second in the league in scoring at 16.8 ppg and leads the HLC in rebounding at 8.8 rpg. MSUB is the top scoring and three-point shooting team in the Heartland, averaging 73.4 points and 7.62 3-pointers per game. They rank fifth in the conference for scoring defense (66.6) and field goal percentage defense (40.7).

St. Mary’s vs. Montana State-Billings: St. Mary’s won their first game against the Yellowjackets, 51-48 on Feb. 12 in San Antonio. However MSUB won the season series 2-1. The Yellowjackets won 69-67 in Billings and 59-57 in San Antonio in the other two meetings. MSUB leads the all-time series 8-1, dating back to the 2002 season.

About Incarnate Word: The Cardinals are 14-13 overall and 6-4 in the Heartland Conference. Nia Torru leads the team and ranks fifth in the conference for scoring at 14.3 ppg. She is also fifth in the league for rebounding (6.6) and seventh for 3-pointers per game (1.67). Ieasha Sledge averages 8.8 points and 2.6 assists per game. The Cardinals rank third in the Heartland for scoring offense (62.3). They are the hardest team to score on in the league, giving up just 59.7 ppg, and they rank first in the league for free throw percentage (72.5).

St. Mary’s vs. Incarnate Word: The Rattlers hold a paper-thin 22-21 lead in the all-time series against the Cardinals. St. Mary’s leads 12-11 in games at St. Mary’s, while the series is tied at 10-10 across town. St. Mary’s has been strong in recent years, winning 10 of the last 14 meetings. For the second straight season the teams split the season series with UIW winning 69-63 at St. Mary’s and the Rattlers winning 59-58 at UIW. The teams split the series last season, with UIW winning 69-67 in overtime at St. Mary’s, while the Rattlers returned the favor, winning 73-69 in overtime at UIW. The Rattlers swept the season series in 2004-05, winning 59-54 at St. Mary’s and 62-60 at UIW.

About St. Edward’s: The Hilltoppers are 9-17 overall and 6-4 in the Heartland Conference. No player averages double figures for scoring, but five players average at least seven points a game. Sophia Holguin leads the team in scoring at 8.5 ppg. Sara Head leads the Toppers in rebounding at 6.8 rpg. St. Edward’s ranks fifth in the Heartland for scoring at 57.2 ppg. They are second in the league for both scoring defense (60.5) and field goal percentage defense (39.7).

St. Mary’s vs. St. Edward’s: The Rattlers lead the all-time series between the teams 36-23. St. Mary’s swept the season series beween the teams. winning 59-52 in Austin and 68-57 in San Antonio. The Rattlers have won the last four meetings, including a 63-59 decision last season in the first round of the Heartland Tournament in Austin.

Rattlers Wrap Up Regular Season with win Over UTPB: Charlena Rodez led four St. Mary’s players scoring in double figures with 20 points as the Rattlers wrapped the 2006-07 regular season with 70-62 win over Texas-Permian Basin. Rodez hit on 10-of-11 shots from the field to reach the 20-point mark for the fourth time this season. Her 90.9 percent shooting from the field ranks third in St. Mary’s single-game history. St. Mary’s led by nine points at the half before the Falcons rallied. Behind some early three-pointers the Falcons took the lead and expanded it to five points. They held the lead until Ashton Benford scored on a tip-in and completed the three-point play to make the score 57-54 with 10:06 left. The teams traded the lead four times before Juanita Merchant hit a three-pointer with 2:14 left to play, giving the Rattlers a 64-62 lead that they would not relinquish. Three other Rattlers scored in double figures in the game. Dawn Killian scored 15 points, pulled down four rebounds and dished out four assists. Benford scored 14 points and pulled six rebounds, while Gamez had 11 points and 11 rebounds. The double-double was the second of the season for Gamez.

Gamez Named Heartland Player of the Week: Natalie Gamez was named Heartland Conference Women’s Basketball co-Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 19-25. She shared the honor with Montana State-Billings forward Michelle Lieber. Gamez averaged 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in three games, helping the Rattlers clinch a berth in the Heartland Conference Tournament. She shot 50.0 percent for the week, including 53.3 percent from three-point range. Against St. Edward’s University she scored 28 points, pulled down nine rebounds and dished out six assists. She then followed that up with 16 points and eight rebounds against Oklahoma Panhandle State University. She finished off the week with her second double-double this season, scoring 11 points and dishing out 11 rebounds against the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

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