AUSTIN–Rachel Jones and Natalie Gamez combined for 20 second half points as St. Mary’s University rallied for a 61-55 win over St. Edward’s University in Heartland Conference women’s basketball action Thursday night at the Recreation and Convocation Center.

With the win the Rattlers have won 11 straight games, the second longest win streak in school history, behind on the 2001-02 team, which won 19 games in a row.

St. Mary’s struggled in the first half, hitting on just 31.0 percent (9-29) of their shots from the field. However, they stayed in the game thanks to a defense that forced nine turnovers and allowed just one three-point basket. Jones (Jr., Little Rock, Ark.) keyed a 7-2 run to finish the first half that turned a six-point Hilltopper lead with 1:34 left into a one-point advantage.

The Rattlers continued that run into the second half, increasing it to a 17-6 streak that gave them a five-point edge at 37-32 on a Gamez (Jr., San Antonio) layup with 15:07 left to play. After a Hilltopper bucket made it a three-point game the Rattlers went on a 10-2 run to increase their advantage to 11 at 47-36 with 10:10 left. Jones keyed the run with six points, turning a tight-game into a near-runaway.

However the Hilltoppers kept in shouting distance and made it a four-point game on a pair of Whitney Regian free throws with 29 seconds left to play. Hoever Gamez hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to finish things.

Juanita Merchant scored a game-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. Gamez made just 2-of-7 shots from the field, but hit on 8-of-11 from the free throw line for 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Jones had 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Charron Sumler was the only Hilltopper in double figures with 13 points.

St. Mary’s is 12-4 overall and 3-0 in Heartland Conference play, the best mark in the league this season. St. Edward’s fell to 4-12 and 2-1. The Rattlers will return to action on Monday when they travel across town to take on the University of the Incarnate Word, who was undefeated in conference play entering Thursday’s action.

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