San Antonio – The Rattlers have desperately needed something – anything, really – to bounce their way in recent weeks, so watching Ray Marshall’s game-tying free throw clank off the rim in the waning seconds Saturday night was about the last thing they wanted to see.
But then came the bounce they needed, perhaps one that could reinvigorate their season.
Marshall picked up the rebound and whipped the ball over to D.J. Castro, who made a tear drop from the base line with 13 seconds remaining to spur the Rattlers past Arkansas-Fort Smith 64-63 at Bill Greehey Arena.
St. Mary’s then got the defensive stop on the other end, forcing an errant shot with four seconds left.
“I saw an opening so I just figured I’d take it,” said Castro, a sophomore from El Paso, Texas, who had a game-high-tying 15 points. “Time was running down. They got me the ball and I was open.”
Kevin Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas) had 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Marshall (Jr., El Paso, Texas) added 13 points.
The victory didn’t help the Rattlers (14-11, 6-5 in Heartland Conference) in the league standings, but it certainly helped them in terms of morale.
St. Mary’s started out 5-0 in conference play but sputtered during a lengthy road trip, leaving the Rattlers in a position where they must win next Saturday’s regular-season finale against Texas A&M International in order to have a shot at the conference tournament.
The Rattlers are currently in fifth place but could move up with a victory and help from other teams.
“This is really big,” Castro said of Saturday’s victory. “I feel it was really big for us, coming off the losing streak we’ve had. Attitudes were down. But this is going to help us big time.”
The Rattlers entered the half tied at 32-32 when Kotzur cleaned up a Josh Orta (So., San Antonio) miss with a second left.
But the game began to slip away, with UAFS pulling ahead by 12 points with seven minutes left.
Then the Rattlers went on a run.
Down 57-45, the Rattlers went on a 12-2 tear to trail 59-57.
Castro’s eventual game-winner gave St. Mary’s its first lead of the second half since the 16:49 mark.
The Rattlers will host Texas A&M International at 4:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena next Saturday.