STEPHENVILLE -- A 15-0 run by the TWU Pioneers that started midway through the first quarter led to a 69-62 season-opening win against St. Mary's during game one of the TexAnn Tip-Off Classic Friday afternoon.
Alexis Nezianya led four Pioneers that scored in double-figures against St. Mary's. Nezianya posted a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for TWU (1-0). Desiree Phipps scored a career-high 11 points, Whitney Apari totaled 11 in her Pioneer debut, and Grace Mitchell also added 11. Kara Mitchell handed out 10 assists for a career and game-high.
Phipps knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to break a 6-6 tie, and Apari followed with five points on successive possessions in the midst of the opening TWU run for a 21-9 lead 10 seconds into the second quarter. KJ Stastny drilled a three for a 27-16 advantage midway through the quarter, and the Rattlers (0-1) managed to close within 36-29 on five free throws within the final minute of the first half.
Stastny opened up the third quarter seven seconds in with a shot from deep, and Grace Mitchell converted a shot in the paint to put the Pioneers up 41-29. Apari tossed in a three just under the three-minute mark, and Grace Mitchell scored in the lane for a 54-41 lead. St. Mary's then put up seven points within two minutes to pull within 56-48 at the quarter break.
The Rattlers made it a four-point game four minutes into the final period on a pair of free throws before Nezianya hit a jumper and Stastny drained a three to extend the lead back to 66-57. St. Mary's made a jumper with 3:17remaining before Nezianya came through with a layup to put TWU up 68-59 as 48 seconds remained.
Head coach Beth Jillson said, "We did a great job of sharing the basketball and had a very balanced scoring attack. Alexis did a phenomenal job on the glass, and Kara was aggressive passing the ball. Des and Whit made a difference coming off of the bench and knocking down shots."
The Pioneers conclude play in the TexAnn Tip-Off Classic Saturday and will face Western State at noon.