San Antonio – Rachel Jones led St. Mary’s University to a much needed 53-40 victory against Newman University in Heartland Conference women’s basketball action Thursday night at Bill Greehey Arena. Jones finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists, while Ashton Benford (Sr., Waxahachie) followed with 10 points and three steals.

The first half was anything but pretty, with St. Mary’s shooting just 32 percent from the field and Newman just 35 percent. The name of the game was defense with St. Mary’s committing 29 turnovers and Newman making 27.

The Rattlers struggled to find an offensive rhythm, relying heavily on defensive pressure from Amber Sophus (Fr., Houston) and Jones (Sr., Little Rock, Ark.), which lead to most of their 20 first half points. After taking a 16-10 lead on a Chastity Noble (Jr., El Paso) three-pointer the Rattlers went the next 10:02 without a field goal. Jones finally broke the streak with a lay-up with 40 seconds left in the half.

Natalie Gamez (Sr., San Antonio) knocked down a quick three-pointer to start the second, which gave the Rattlers the spark they were looking for to go on a 13-4 run. Benford scored eight of her ten points in the second half, four of which came from about 18-feet. Newman, who scored just 22 points in the second half, was never able to recover despite the 10-point effort by Diana Santillman.

With the win, the Rattlers clinched the Heartland Conference Tournament and will host the tournament at Greehey Arena next week. The Rattlers will return to action on Saturday at 2 p.m. for their final home game of the regular season, which is also senior night, against Lincoln University.

Excitement is building as the Rattlers move up in the national and regional polls because St. Mary’s will host the NCAA Division II Women’s Elite 8 (March 24, 25 and 27) and the Heartland Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament (March 6 and 7) in Bill Greehey Arena.

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