The Mercer Bears women’s basketball team has completed an incredible feat, repeating as Southern Conference champions, after coming back to defeat Furman 66-63 on Sunday.
Furman got out to the quick start in the first quarter, but the Bears responded in the second quarter to take a 35-31 lead into halftime.
It was the second half where Furman started to catch fire. The Bears were outscored by the Paladins 16-9 in the third quarter, and entered the final 10 minutes trailing 47-44.
The fourth quarter saw the Paladins extend their lead out to six points, and hold onto it until about the five minute mark. This is when everything changed.
After scoring zero points in the first three quarters, Mercer guard Shannon Titus erupted for 12 points in the fourth quarter, sparking her team’s comeback down the stretch.
The Paladins fought hard, and had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds. But when it was all said and done, it was the Bears dancing in the streamers, celebrating a second consecutive SoCon tournament title.
(1) Titus has ice in her veins
After scoring 27 in the Bears semi-finals game against Wofford, the sophomore guard struggled for most of the championship game. However, when it mattered most, Titus came through for Mercer. Her 12 fourth quarter points not only helped her team on the scoreboard, but in their confidence, as well. The Bears looked lost, dazed and confused before Titus took the game over. It was an incredible performance by the sophomore guard.
(2) The Keke Calloway we all know
Calloway has had a rollercoaster like year for the Mercer Bears. She has had really high highs and some pretty low lows. However, she finished strong, winning the SoCon Player of the Year award and dropping 30 points in the championship game. The Bears will need the best version of Keke Calloway they can get in the NCAA Tournament, no matter who they draw in the opening round.
(3) Bears are dancing again
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, Mercer is once again heading back to the big dance. According to Charlie Creme’s edition of “Bracketology” on ESPN, the Bears are currently projected as a No. 16 seed against either No. 1 seed Notre Dame or No. 1 seed Baylor. This would have the Bears playing in either South Bend, ID or Waco, TX for their first round matchup. Mercer would almost certainly be massive underdogs in either game, but I would expect the Bears to give either a good fight.
Player of the Game: KeKe Calloway (No. 0)
- Calloway was unstoppable all night long, scoring a game-high 30 points
- The senior guard played 39 total minutes in the game, resting for just one minute in the game
- She also contributed four rebounds, two assists and five 3-pointers
(-) Head Coach Susie Gardner on repeating as champions:
“Just think about what these seniors have done in these last two years. Go undefeated in the regular season and win two championships. That’s a lot of winning. And I’m not saying we are the best team to come through the SoCon by any stretch, but these guys, these seniors know how to win. And we got it done tonight somehow.”
(-) Calloway talks about her big time performance:
“First, it’s only credit to my teammates for finding me and getting me the ball to get open shots. Also to my coaches for believing in me enough to take those long crazy deep shots and they went in today. I just tried to come in and focus to just lead my team and just be the best I can be because if I’m at my best, then everyone else is at their best and we’ll have the best chance to win.”
(-) Gardner on how she helped the Bears mount a comeback:
“I try to be Ms. Positive in the huddle. Between the third and the fourth quarter I had to get out of my normal character. But I just looked at them and said, “Y’all, we’re seniors. We’ve been here. We got this.” I wasn’t sure that we had it, but I had to convince myself and convince them that we had it.”