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Sunday, Jun 16, 2024
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Mercer hoards 2018 postseason awards

Kahlia Lawrence posing for a photo with her family.
Kahlia Lawrence posing for a photo with her family.

In a year stockpiled filled with accolades, Women’s Basketball senior Kahlia Lawrence was named the 2018 Southern Conference Player of the Year, highlighting a bevy of season awards for the Bears. This is Lawrence’s third consecutive year receiving the award, a SoCon first, and it comes on the heels of No. 25 Mercer completing a perfect 14-0 sweep of the SoCon regular season.


“That’s really all that matters, the team’s success. The fact that I’m able to be successful along with that is really great, but it wouldn’t mean anything if my team wasn’t playing as well as they are right now,” Lawrence said.


Lawrence’s distinguished career in the SoCon is well documented. She was named the 2014-2015 SoCon Freshman of the Year as well and has a career scoring average of 16.9 points per game. She has totaled 2177 career points, 682 rebounds, and 249 assists as a Bear while leading Mercer to three straight SoCon regular season championships. She is just the fourth Mercer player to score 2,000 career points and is 3rd all-time on Mercer’s scoring list and field goals made list.


This season, Lawrence has been instrumental in Mercer rattling off 24 straight victories, a program record and the third longest active streak in Division I women’s basketball. She leads the SoCon at 18.6 ppg and is top-15 in 9 other statistical categories. Lawrence also garnered Player of the Week honors twice and Player of the Month honors this season as well. She was the 2017 Georgia Women’s College Player of the Year and this year collects her third All-Conference First Team selection.


“Honestly, (I’m) just grateful,” Lawrence said. “To do something that no one else that has played in the SoCon has ever done is incredible. To be apart of history once more, like I said, is just humbling. It’s surreal. You’d never think that something like this would ever happen to you.”


This marks the fourth season in a row that a Mercer player was named SoCon Player of Year and, rightfully, Coach of the Year honors go to Head Coach Susie Gardner for the second time in three years. Gardner has led the program to three straight SoCon regular season titles, and two conference tournament runner-up appearances. Under her tenure, Mercer has won 20-plus games in 5 of the last 6 seasons. This season’s 27 wins and counting is the most under Gardner’s tenure and a program record as well. Mercer earned a spot in USA Today’s Top-25 for the first time ever and the AP Top-25 for the first time since 1980.


“We come in and attack each and every day as the most important day of our season and have reaped the benefits beyond my wildest imagination this year, so far. This is an incredible group of players that have amazing staff behind the scenes that help us have success,” Gardner said in a Mercer Athletics press release. “I am very humbled because our conference has a great core group of coaches who are good X's and O's coaches and great people."


Not to be forgotten are senior Sydni Means and junior KeKe Calloway who join Lawrence on the SoCon All-Conference First Team. This is Means’ second selection to the conference’s first team and Calloway’s first.


Means is second all-time on Mercer’s assist list with 684. That’s also third-all time in SoCon history. She’s dished a SoCon leading 236 assists at 8.1 assists per game this season. Her 4.72 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the NCAA while her assists per game and total assists are third and fourth, respectively.


Calloway has made a name for herself right behind Means and Lawrence. The junior is best known for her 3-point shooting where she is first in the SoCon and 16th in the NCAA with 89 made three-pointers this season. Calloway is also SoCon tops in 3-point attempts (230), 3-points per game (3.07) and 3-point field-goal percentage (38.7). She is third in the SoCon in total scoring at 17.8 points per game. If Lawrence happens to not be scoring, you can bet Calloway will be.


"Obviously all three of the players have had not only amazing seasons, but amazing careers,” Gardner told Mercer Athletics. “When you have a point guard in Sydni Means, it gives me a calming effect to have someone I can trust on the court and hand the team over to her. KeKe has really grown as both a player and a person. … Everyone thinks of KeKe as a three point shooter, but she is a gym rat and is always in the gym working on her midrange, getting to the rim and becoming better as a player. Lastly, to have a player like Kahlia to get Freshman of the Year and then three-time Player of the Year, that doesn't happen very often. Kahlia is a great player and a great teammate. None of these players would be able to do what they do without the team around them.”


The season is not over yet, No. 25 Mercer has the number one seed in this year’s SoCon tournament and will face eight seed Western Carolina on Thursday evening in the quest for their first ever SoCon Tournament Championship.


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