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Rematch! Mercer Women to take on Georgia in first round of 2018 NCAA Tournament

From+left+to+right%3A+Seniors+Shon+Kitchens%2C+Kahlia+Lawrence%2C+Sydni+Means%2C+and+Kayla+Potts+waited+to+hear+who+they%27d+be+playing+in+the+2018+NCAA+Tournament
From left to right: Seniors Shon Kitchens, Kahlia Lawrence, Sydni Means, and Kayla Potts waited to hear who they'd be playing in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

From left to right: Seniors Shon Kitchens, Kahlia Lawrence, Sydni Means, and Kayla Potts waited to hear who they'd be playing in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Avery Braxton

Avery Braxton

From left to right: Seniors Shon Kitchens, Kahlia Lawrence, Sydni Means, and Kayla Potts waited to hear who they'd be playing in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Avery Braxton, Staff Writer

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Sounds like payback may be in order.

No. 25 Mercer Women’s Basketball will take on in-state opponent No. 18 Georgia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. This will be the second time that the Bears play the Bulldogs this year.

The NCAA handed Mercer the No. 13 seed of the Albany region in this year’s tournament. Georgia is a No. 4 seed and will play the Bears at home in Athens on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Georgia handed Mercer one of its only two losses of the year. The two teams played in Hawkins Arena where the Bears fell, 72-54. The game was much closer than the final score would make it appear.

Mercer actually led after the end of the first quarter, and Georgia was only leading by eight points at the end of the third quarter. SoCon Player of the Year, Kahlia Lawrence, ended the game with 19 points on a rough 6-of-19 shooting night, and SoCon All-Second Team guard Sydni Means had seven points and seven assists.

Head Coach Susie Gardner, a UGA alum, said she was delighted to play Georgia again, though not for the reason one might expect.

“I was really, really shocked and thrilled,” Gardner said. “I wanted our fans to be able to travel with our team because we travel so well, and they’re such amazing Mercer fans.”

Gardner played for the Bulldogs under Head Coach Andy Landers in the 1980’s, reaching the Final Four twice and title game once before falling to Old Dominion in 1985. The Dawgs also reached the NCAA tournament in 1986 and 1987 when Gardner was a graduate assistant. She said playing Georgia is not quite the same since Lander’s retirement in 2015.

“When you coach against the guy that you played for, it’s a little bit different. (UGA Head Coach) Joni (Taylor) and I are friends, and I respect what she’s doing at my alma mater, but it’s not the same as coaching against Coach Landers,” Gardner said.

Gardner and company have had a magical run to the NCAA tournament. The Bears set program records with 27 consecutive and 30 overall wins. The last time the Bears lost was Nov. 24 to Western Kentucky, the game after their loss to Georgia.

They won their first outright Southern Conference regular season championship and first SoCon tournament title.

Gardner was named Coach of the Year for the second time and Lawrence the Player of the Year for the third time in a row. Lawrence, Means and junior KeKe Calloway were all tabbed as SoCon All-First Team selections.

Lawrence was also named SoCon Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and All-Tournament first team with Calloway, while Means and junior Amanda Thompson were named All Tournament Second-Team.

Mercer’s matchup with Georgia can be seen on Saturday, March 17 at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

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Rematch! Mercer Women to take on Georgia in first round of 2018 NCAA Tournament