Beyond the Scoreboard: Mercer women win SoCon championship

The Mercer Bears is making its first trip to the NCAA tournament (WLOS Staff).jpg

WLOS – The complete domination of the Mercer women through the Southern Conference’s regular season continued unabated in the tournament.

The top-seeded Bears (30-2) completed a season sweep of the league and won the program’s first SoCon tournament title with a 68-53 win over No. 2 East Tennessee State on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Center.

The win was Mercer’s 27th in a row and finished off a 17-0 run through conference opponents while propelling the program into the NCAA tournament.

The average margin of victory over league foes was 18 points as coach Susie Gardner’s squad ruled play from the season’s start to finish.

“This season has been beyond our wildest dreams,” said Gardner. “To win this many games in a row, to go undefeated in such a good league, is incredible.”

The Bears, ranked 25th in the country, got 18 first-half points from tournament Most Outstanding Player Kahlia Lawrence to take a 33-23 lead at intermission.

The three-time SoCon Player of the Year, Lawrence finished with 29 points. The 5-8 senior guard scored on a variety of short jumpers and drives to the basket and also sank a trio of 3-pointers.

The Bucs (20-12) never got closer than six points in the second half.

“This was a tough game,” said ETSU coach Brittney Ezell. “It’s a game that could have gone a lot of ways. Mercer is a very good team. Good luck to them in the (NCAA) tournament.”

The Bucs, who will play in the WNIT, got 12 points from Erica-Haynes Overton.

Former Hayesville High standout Amanda Thompson had a strong tournament for Mercer. The 5-10 junior forward had 32 points and 24 rebounds in three games, including 11 boards in the title game.

She was given the Pinnacle Award as the top scholar-athlete on the winning team. She is majoring in Engineering and has a 4.0 GPA.

Chattanooga had won five straight SoCon women’s titles before this season. Mercer had lost in the championship game to the Mocs each of the past two seasons.

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