San Antonio – Curtis Mitchell’s steal and fast break layup with 44 seconds left sealed the victory as third-seeded St. Mary’s University edged second-seeded Newman University, 74-72, in the semifinals of the Heartland Conference Tournament, held Friday afternoon at Bill Greehey Arena.

With the win St. Mary’s improved to 17-12 this season, while Newman fell to 18-10. The Rattlers advance to the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship game against the University of the Incarnate Word, which will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Bill Greehey Arena. The winner of the game advances to the NCAA South Central Region Tournament. The game will be broadcast live over the internet at

The game was a classic, from start to finish. It featured 20 lead changes and 12 ties, as the teams went back and forth throughout. Neither team led by more than seven points the entire game.

St. Mary’s took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Gordon Ward (Jr., Galveston, Texas) with 3:20 left to play. However, the Jets cut the lead to just one point on a pair of free throws by Jaray Mathews with 1:22 left to play. After the Jets forced a turnover with 49 seconds left, Mathews was bringing the ball down the court, when Curtis Mitchell (Sr., Milwaukee) came from behind, picked Mathews pocket and drove the length of the court for a layup, giving the Rattlers a 73-70 lead with 44 seconds left. Chip Stevens hit a layup with 22 seconds left to pull Newman within one, but Keaton Schultz’s desperation 3-pointer with one second left was short, giving the Rattlers the win.

St. Mary’s shot 48.3 percent (28-58) from the field and 83.3 percent (15-18) from the free throw line. They also outrebounded Newman, 41-30. But the Rattlers committed 17 turnovers, compared with just 9 for Newman, keeping the Jets in the game. Newman made 39.0 percent (23-59) of its shots from the field and 83.3 percent (20-24) from the free throw line.

Ward led all players with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. He also pulled down 7 rebounds, made 3 steals and had 2 blocks. Kevin Kotzur (Fr., La Vernia, Texas) scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for a double-double. Mitchell added 12 points, while Jeff Campbell (So., San Antonio) came off the bench to score 12 points. Mathews and Chip Steven led Newman with 17 points each.

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