San Antonio – Coming into his own during the right game at the right time, Isaiah Matthews led the Rattlers in bringing in the new year with a victory over Cardinal Stritch that came down to the last five minutes of play.
After hitting his season high of 10 points in the win over Incarnate Word Thursday, Matthews nearly doubled his season best in his very next game, leading the Rattlers with 19 points. Matthews achieved another feat Saturday, earning his first double-double by pulling down 10 rebounds which helped the Rattlers to its sixth win of the season, 73-63. Following Matthews was junior Kevin Kotzur (La Vernia, Texas) with a double-double of his own, scoring 15 points with 10 rebounds and Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) added another 13. D.J. Castro (So., El Paso, Texas) and Daryell Taylor (Jr., Houston, Texas) both came away with eight apiece.
While St. Mary’s (6-4) ended the game with high boards, it wasn’t the case from the get-go. The Rattlers trailed by as much as 12 halfway through the first, but were able to close the gap to five before the half. Fouls being called left and right, the intensity of the game increased during the second half with the Rattlers tying up Cardinal Stritch (10-5) within five minutes of the start of the second, 44-44. The lead of the game flipped back and forth between the Rattlers and the Wolves, and the whistle that marked Kotzur’s fifth personal foul with eight minutes left to play was a blow that left the rest of game undetermined with the 6-8 center now on the bench. But that’s when Matthews found his place on the floor.
The redshirt-freshman playing his first season with the Rattlers, Matthews (Texas City, Texas) scored 15 of his 19 points down the stretch in the second half that denied an overtime and helped the Rattlers gain and end with a 10-point lead. With Kotzur forced to bench because of fouls, 6-5 was the height on the floor for the Rattlers as Matthews successfully took the lead.
“The next time (coach) called my name,” said Matthews who went 6-9 from the floor, “I just went out there and crashed the boards hard. I feel pretty good about my position and where I’m at on the floor.”
Seeing the diamond that has finessed in the year he was red-shirted and so far this season, Matthews showed in Saturday’s game that there is a glimmer in the ruff of bench players, totaling more than half of the total bench points for the game of 32.
Saturday’s win was added preparation for the start of Heartland Conference play, which the Rattlers enter confidently with a strong season start.
“Preseason helped a lot,” said Matthews, “it helped everybody form together as a team. We’re starting to run the plays a lot better, defense has picked up and pretty much everyone’s finding their spot on the court and where they need to take their shots.”
The Rattlers will shoot to win in their first conference game of the season against rival St. Edward’s on Jan. 5 in Austin, Texas at 5 p.m.