ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The 25th-ranked Mercer Bears claimed the Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale, 68-53, over ETSU at the U.S. Cellular Center on Sunday afternoon. The Bears took control of the game in the second quarter and never looked back.
The SoCon Player of the Year lived up to her billing in this contest. Kahlia Lawrence led the Bears with 29 points and three assists. KeKe Calloway chipped in 11, while Amanda Thompson added nine points, a game-high 11 rebounds and five steals.
Erica Haynes-Overton led three in double digits for the Bucs with 12. Tianna Tarter had 10 points and five assists, while Sadasia Tipps also had 10 but in 13 minutes due to foul trouble.
ETSU’s Raven Dean’s layup on a nice look from Tarter made it a two-point contest, 22-20, with 4:21 left in the half. Sydni Means jumpstarted an 11-3 run to the break as Lawrence’s three-point play with a tick left before intermission gave the Bears a 33-23 advantage.
The lead swelled to 13, 39-26, on Alex Williams’ layup with 7:30 left in the third. The Bucs battled back. Haynes-Overton capped a streak of seven unanswered points at 5:32 cutting the margin to six, 39-33.
Williams and Lawrence netted the next six points to quell the uprising. The margin never reached single digits again.
The Bears await the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Selection Show. Watch it on Monday, March 12, at 7 p.m., on ESPN. They’re the first SoCon school other than Chattanooga (2001-04, 2006-08, 2010, 2013-17), Samford (2011-12) or Western Carolina (2005, 2009) to win the title since 2000 (Furman).
ON THE RECORD
- The Bears won their 27th consecutive game, which ties the Southern Conference record set by Chattanooga in 2003-04.
- This is their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
- Mercer is now 1-2 in the championship game in its third appearance in a row.
- 0-5 in championship game, also losing in 1984, 1991, 1995 and 2015.
- First 20-win season since 2014-15.
- Last went to the NCAA tournament in 2010, the end of three in a row (2008-10).
3 stats to know …
- 12 steals for Mercer … 19th time this season the Bears have recorded 10 or more … ETSU led the league with 11.1 per contest.
- ETSU was limited to just 2-for-11 shooting (11.1 percent) from 3-point range … 20.9 percent (9-for-43) from beyond the arc in the three losses to Mercer this campaign.
- Lawrence’s 29 points are the most in a title tilt since 2007 when Chattanooga’s Alex Anderson scored 30 during the Mocs’ 84-66 triumph over Western Carolina in North Charleston, S.C.
Most Outstanding Player
Kahlia Lawrence, Sr., G, Mercer
Pinnacle Award (highest GPA on championship-winning team)
Amanda Thompson, Jr., F, Mercer
Tianna Tarter, ETSU
Erica Haynes-Overton, ETSU
KeKe Calloway, Mercer
Kahlia Lawrence, Mercer
Ije Ajemba, UNCG
Sydni Means, Mercer
Amanda Thompson, Mercer
Brooke Burns, Chattanooga
Olivia Crozier, Samford
Hannah Nichols, Samford