San Antonio – Time was running down, and the pressure was on.
It’s the kind of situation the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team has come to love in recent weeks.
But on Friday night, with their season on the line, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Rattlers turned the ball over with four seconds remaining on a bobbled handoff from Josh Orta to Lamb Autrey, and Gordon Ward misfired on a desperation 3-pointer as time expired as the fourth-seeded Rattlers fell to top-seeded Texas-Permian Basin 61-59 in the Heartland Conference semifinals at Bill Greehey Arena.
“We just didn’t close out the way we should,” junior forward Ray Marshall said. “We got ahead ourselves and turned it over.”
In-bounding the ball with three seconds remaining, Ward took the pass at midcourt and fired from about five beyond beyond the arc along the right wing.
Down eight points with 10:30 remaining, the Rattlers (15-12 overall) went on a tear to force OT at all.
And clutch plays from Marshall (El Paso, Texas) and Kevin Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas) were largely to thank.
Kotzur, an All-Heartland Conference First Team selection, converted a basket-plus-the-foul with 57 seconds left to put the Rattlers up 52-50.
UTPB’s Jamal Holden, the Heartland Conference’s Player of the Year, answsered with a mid-range jumper with 47 seconds left to even the score.
Then, the Rattlers turned the ball over and appeared headed to give up an easy breakaway layup that would hand the Falcons the lead. But Marshall, the Rattlers’ lone man back on a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Falcons, drew the charge to keep the Rattlers’ ahead.
Orta (So., San Antonio) couldn’t connect from 3-point range with three seconds left in regulation, and Marshall missed the tip-in.
Kotzur led the Rattlers with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Lamb Autrey (Jr., Cibolo, Texas) scored 13. Holden led all scorers with 19.
UTPB entered halftime leading 28-27, after St. Mary’s John Roberts (So., San Antonio) connected on a 3-pointer with five ticks left. He scored all of his seven points in the first half.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Rattlers, the fourth seed in the tournament who entered the season as the preseason favorite.
St. Mary’s entered Friday with a ton of momentum, having defeated Arkansas-Fort Smith and Texas A&M International in dramatic fashion to close the season. D.J. Castro hit a tear drop shot with about 13 seconds left to top UA Fort Smith, while Autrey drained the go-ahead basket with just under a minute left in an eventual 66-63 victory over A&M International.