San Antonio – It was Revenge of the Rattlers Thursday night, and it tasted sweet.
St. Mary’s (14-7, 7-3 in conference) got its second look at Newman University (15-7, 7-3 in conference) Thursday after the Jets pulled the plug on the Rattlers’ undefeated streak at the start of the Heartland Conference earlier this season.
With the Jets on the Bill Greehey Arena floor this time around, the Rattlers let them know who was home in a powerful victory over the No.-1 ranked team in conference, 72-63.
“They beat us when we were on their home court,” said Joe Monroe after the win, “and we all felt like they stole it from us and we felt like we owed them.”
The Jets got 40 minutes of intense game action with the Rattlers playing with something to prove, hitting big from the tipoff.
Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) led the way for St. May’s with a statement-making 22-point game, followed by the man on top, point Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas), with 17 points and three 3-pointers.
Daryell Taylor (Jr., Houston) had a routine game of double digits with 14 points. Monroe (RS-Fr., San Antonio, Texas) was a bucket away from a dime of his own with eight points.
“We wanted revenge for what happened last time,” says Kotzur, who went 11 of 15 from the floor. “So we came out energized, wanting this one real bad.”
Energized was the word of the day for the Rattlers as they surged toward a speedy 10-point lead, and intense was the emotion as the Jets’ head coach received a technical foul all within the first four minutes of the game.
The heightened feeling of the game never wavered as the Rattlers were able to maintain strong lead for the entirety of the first that bled into halftime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Autrey.
As the leaders of conference, the Jets responded in the second to creep up on the Rattlers’ lead and overtake them by one with 13 minutes remaining in the game.
But St. Mary’s wound of its last encounter with Newman University that ended in a two-point heartbreak with five seconds on the clock, ending its perfect conference record, was still fresh – and throbbing. St. Mary’s led most of that game and wasn’t about to let another lead slip away.
The Rattler offense kicked in to high gear as they cracked the Jet’s non-stop full-court press and double-team traps, regaining the lead and staying composed for six straight free throws to end the showdown with a nine-point victory, 72-63.
“My parents always told me to just play with emotion,” says Monroe, who hit eight of the team’s 12 bench points, “and go all out every time you step on the floor, so I try to play as hard as I can whenever I’m out there.”
Monroe exploded off the bench Thursday, showing his athletic prowess with three crucial tip-ins for six points and a powerful post move for his eighth points.
With Monroe getting his feet wet on the court and a stacked Rattler lineup, the conference is heating up. St. Mary’s is now tied for second with Newman in ranking, just one game behind top-ranked Texas A&M International. St. Mary’s is now looking at four games remaining in the regular season with one home game and three on the road.
With a fitting ending to an exciting season, the Rattlers will face the leader of conference, Texas A&M International, which beat St. Mary’s in their first look, in their very last game. But it’s not time for that turnaround just yet.
“We’re not worried about them right now,” says Kotzur, “We’re just going to take it one game at a time and when they pop up we’ll see them again.”
The Rattlers host their last home game of the season this Saturday against Oklahoma Panhandle State in the Bill Greehey Arena at 2 p.m.