San Antonio – Rachel Jones driving layup gave the St. Mary’s University Rattlers the lead for good as the Rattlers fought off a stubborn University of the Incarnate Word squad for a 46-44 win in Heartland Conference women’s basketball action Monday night at the McDermott Center.

The win was the 12th in a row for the Rattlers, the second longest streak in school history and left them all alone in first place in the Heartland Conference.

Poor shooting and turnovers put the Rattlers in an early hole in the first half. With Brittany Hardy leading the way, UIW started the game with a 17-7 run over the first 9:16. Farren Fox (So., Marble Falls) led a Rattler rally over the remainder of the half. Ashton Benford (Jr., Waxahachie) completed the 17-5 run with a three-point play with 27 seconds left in the half, giving the Rattlers a 24-22 lead at the break. Fox finished the first half with a game-high 10 points.

The Rattlers came out of the locker room cold again to start the second half as UIW went on a 6-2 run to retake the lead at 28-26. However, Chastity Noble’s (So., El Paso) three-pointer gave the Rattlers the lead back 29-28 with 16:48 to play. The teams continued to trade scoring runs and the lead over the next 13 minutes. Jones (Jr., Little Rock, Ark.) gave the Rattlers the lead back at 40-39 with a three-point play with 3:40 left to play in the game. Benford followed with a layup off an inbounds pass from Juanita Merchant (Sr., Angleton) and the Rattlers had a three-point edge at 42-39 with 2:49 left.

Kim Robinson responded with a long jumper to make it a one-point game on the next possession. Jones came right back and made it a three-point edge with a driving layup with 1:18 left, giving the Rattlers a 44-41 lead. After a missed shot by the Cardinals, Fox was fouled while getting a rebound. That forced the Cardinals to foul Merchant with just 21 seconds left on the clock and the senior buried both shots to give the Rattlers a five-point edge. Robinson cut the lead to two with a three-pointer with 14 seconds left. Natalie Gamez (Jr., San Antonio) was fouled on the inbound and missed the front of a one-and-one free throw opportunity. However, the Cardinals missed a shot and then threw the inbound pass away, giving the Rattlers the hard-fought win.

Fox led the Rattlers with 12 points in the game, while Jones added 11 points and nine rebounds. As a team the Rattlers shot 36.5 percent (19-52) from the field. UIW was led by Hardy, who had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. As a team the Cardinals shot just 29.3 percent (17-58) from the field, including 16.0 percent (4-25) from three-point range.

With the win St. Mary’s is now 13-4 overall and 4-0 in Heartland play. Incarnate Word fell to 9-8 and 3-1. The Rattlers will return to action on Thursday when they travel to Laredo to face Texas A&M International University in a Heartland Conference matchup at 5:30 p.m.

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