SAN ANGELO, Texas – If there is an indoctrination that college point guards must go through, there is a good chance St. Mary’s sophomore Josh Orta just took a major leap toward completing his.
Orta, a transfer from South Plains Junior College, netted an unlikely 3-pointer from about five feet beyond the arc with one second left in triple overtime Wednesday night, sending the Rattlers home with an epic 103-100 victory over Angelo State on the Rams’ home court.
Orta scored 19 points to go along with 10 assists and four steals, while Kevin Kotzur added a team-high 21 points on a 9-for-9 showing at the charity stripe to help the Rattlers forge one of their most unforgettable victories in recent memory.
St. Mary’s trailed by as many as 19, including 15 with 14 minutes left, yet somehow found a way to mount what amounted to an historic comeback. The Rattlers’ 103 points marked the most on record in the program’s illustrious history, topping the old mark of 100, which had been achieved twice (against Montevallo, Nov. 29, 2002; and Schreiner, Jan. 28, 2003).
It took Orta, a San Antonio native who played all but one minute in the game, making a pair of free throws with a tick left in regulation just to force OT at all.
Earlier, St. Mary’s had gone on a 12-0 run, which was capped off by two Brad Hubenak (So., Kennedale, Texas) free throws, to cut a 60-45 deficit to 60-57 with 9:33 left.
Then, Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas) made a layup with 4:40 left to give the Rattlers (5-4) their first lead of the half – and just their second lead of the night. Their only previous advantage had been by the score of 2-0 moments into the game.
St. Mary’s pushed its lead to as large as seven, but had to settle for OT following a late surge from the Rams as regulation came to an end with the teams tied at 76-76.
The wild ride was just beginning.
Overtime started out as a back-and-forth affair, with the teams trading baskets in the first OT. A pair of Kotzur free throws gave St. Mary’s a two-point lead with 20 seconds left, but the Rams evened the scoreboard on a shot with seven ticks remaining.
But while the teams largely continued to trade baskets, the Rattlers started to assert their control despite seeing the game extend to a third OT with the teams tied at 94-94.
St. Mary’s trailed just once over the final two extra sessions, and a timeout called by coach Jim Zeleznak with 19 seconds left in the third OT proved to provide the needed magic.
Incidentally, Orta’s game-winning 3-pointer marked just the second shot the Rattlers hit from beyond the arc all night.
Hubenak scored a season-high 18 points, while Lamb Autrey (Jr., Cibolo, Texas) chipped in 14. Ray Marshall (Jr., El Paso, Texas) added 10 points.
And with that, the Rattlers can briefly exhale. They’ll return to the court against Dallas Christian College at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Greehey Arena.