Mercer University’s women’s basketball team stormed their way through the Southern Conference Tournament, winning the championship against the No. 4 Wofford Terriers by a score of 60-38 Sunday in Asheville, North Carolina.
Mercer was led to the championship by Amoria Neal-Tysor. Neal-Tysor scored 16 points in the decisive title game, capping off a three-game tournament run in which she averaged over 25 points per game. She was awarded the SoCon Tournament MVP Award at the conclusion of the tournament.
The championship marks a turnaround for the Bears, who only won eight games in last year’s season. Mercer won three straight games to take home the title, beating all three opponents by comfortable margins.
In their first game of the tournament Thursday, the Bears opened strong with a win against Western Carolina University.
The No. 7 Catamounts kept up in the first quarter of play, but ended the first half down by 8 in a 39-31 game. Mercer kept their momentum up in the third quarter, scoring another 19 and holding Western Carolina to just 12 points in the third to extend their lead.
Neal-Tysor led the way for the Bears, scoring 27 points in the win. Jada Lewis also had a strong performance for Mercer with 24 points. Mercer led for 38 of 40 minutes, forcing 11 turnovers from the Catamounts. The game ended with a 9-point Bears win by a score of 76-67.
The Bears then moved to the Friday semifinal round to face the No. 6 Furman Paladins. A strong first quarter vaulted Mercer into the lead with the Bears scoring 25 points in the first quarter. Another 25 points in the second gave Mercer 50 points at the half and a 50-32 lead over the Paladins.
Mercer scored just seven points in the third quarter as their offensive performance faltered. The fourth quarter provided a return to form, though, as both Mercer and Furman kept pace and scored 24 points in the quarter. The Bears held on to a 10-point lead and took home the win by a score of 81-71.
Neal-Tysor dominated again for Mercer, scoring 34 points in the game. This included 23 points in the first half alone. Jaron Dougherty followed with 17 points in the matchup. Neal-Tysor and Dougherty’s performances helped lead Mercer to their fifth conference championship game in six years.
The title game went similarly for Mercer. The Bears held Wofford to just 25% shooting from the field, including a stretch of more than 14 minutes during the second and third quarters where Wofford failed to make a single shot.
With just 12 points in the second and third quarters combined, the Terriers could not score against Mercer’s defense. The Bears were able to pull away and secure the championship.
This championship win grants Mercer a ticket to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, their third trip to the event in the past four years. Mercer’s first round opponent will be determined in the selection show Mar. 15 at 7 p.m.
Micah Johnston ‘22 is a journalism and media studies double major who has written for The Cluster since his freshman year at Mercer. He has written on and reported for Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Macon Telegraph and The Macon Newsroom on a variety of topics. He received the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s Junior Honors Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. Micah’s other interests include obsessively following Braves and Mariners baseball, constantly listening to all kinds of music and probably eating junk food.