DENTON – Five St. Mary’s University players scored in double figures and the Rattlers finished the game with an 11-2 run, leading them to a 79-70 win over St. Edward’s University in the championship game of the Heartland Conference men’s basketball tournament Saturday night at the Super Pit on the campus of the University of North Texas.
The second half was a back-and-forth battle with neither team taking more than a four-point lead. The Rattlers held the lead early in the second half, but the Hilltoppers rallied and took the lead with 6:26 left on a pair of Shawn Weinstein free throws. But Rod Bellard (Jr., Beaumont) hit a three-pointer and Marcus Hill (Sr., Longview) hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 60 with 4:27 left.
The Rattlers took the lead on a Robert Owens (Jr., Oakwood) free throw with 1:45 left to give the Rattlers a 63-61 lead with just 1:45. However Taylor Land nailed an off-balance three pointer with 1:07 left and Jannik Zimmer followed with a free throw with 12 seconds left to give the Hilltoppers a two-point lead. But Allen Coleman (Sr., Corpus Christi) found Owens for a layup with six seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime. That’s when the Rattlers finally took over.
With the score tied at 67, the Rattlers outscored the Hilltoppers 7-0 with Hill and Coleman making layups. Shawn Weinstein came back with a three-pointer with 57 seconds left to make it a four-point game. But the Rattlers hit 5-of-8 free throws in the final 50 seconds to hold on for the win.
“They showed a lot of heart tonight,” St. Mary’s coach Jim Zeleznak said after the game. “I really thought that both teams competed really, really well. It was just a matter of who would put together a spurt. Defense was the key to the win for us.”
Owens scored a game-high 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line and was named tournament MVP. Coleman also earned all-tournament honors, scoring 14 points and dishing out five assists. Bellard added 11 points, while Hill and Latez Williams (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio) had 10 points each.
St. Mary’s won its fifth straight game and improved to 17-12 overall this season with the win. St. Edward’s fell to 23-6. The Rattlers earned the automatic berth into the NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament. The announcement of the field will be at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Brandon Wash, Dallas Baptist
Cameron Teague, Incarnate Word
Michael Moss, St. Edward’s
Daniel Pierre, St. Edward’s
Marcus Hill, St. Mary’s
Allen Coleman, St. Mary’s
MVP – Robert Owens, St. Mary’s