The Bears traveled to Johnson City, Tennessee for a matchup with East Tennessee State Buccaneers on Thursday, the first of two straight road games.
Mercer got out ahead of the Bucs early thanks to fast starts from starters Amanda Thompson and Shannon Titus. At the end of the opening quarter, the Bears led 25-15.
The second quarter was pretty back-and-forth for the most part, which resulted in the Bears entering halftime with a 40-32 lead. The second half is where things got interesting.
ETSU made a few runs in the third quarter, but couldn’t eat into Mercer’s lead. It was in the fourth quarter that the Bucs outscored the Bears by eight to send the game into overtime.
The overtime period, however, was all Mercer — more accurately, all Shannon Titus.
Titus took over the period, scoring all seven of Mercer’s overtime points and led her team to a hard-fought, 83-77 road victory.
(1) Bears clinch fourth straight SoCon regular season title
Winning a single conference championship is an accomplishment. But winning four in a row is something truly special. It’s a testament to the program that Head Coach Susie Gardner has built in her nine years at Mercer. The Bears are also currently on a 31-game SoCon winning streak, which is equally incredible. Add that to the fact that the SoCon Player of the Year has been a Mercer Bear for the last four seasons, each year that the Bears have been in the league. And, well, wow. Incredible.
(2) Rachel Selph is peaking at the right time
Selph had been having a pretty quiet year up until the last few games. The 6’3 center has really stepped up her game recently, and that continued in Thursday’s game with an 18-point, seven rebound performance, including two steals. Selph is the Bears best post player, and they’ve needed this kind of play from her down the stretch. If you take her out of the last few games, I’m not sure Mercer wins all of them. The senior has been playing big, figuratively and literally.
(3) No Amanda down the stretch…no problem?
The Bears lost Amanda Thompson due to her fouling out late in the game. Thompson has been the glue that holds this team together the entire year. How would this team respond to losing their leader? Pretty well, I’d say. Other players, like Selph and Titus, stepped up to the plate and pushed their team forward. The team definitely wasn’t better without her, but it was good to see them win a game without her. Teams are going to try to get her in foul trouble so that she can’t impact games like she does. Mercer needs to be prepared for that, and Thursday showed that they were.
Player of the Game: Shannon Titus (No. 21)
Titus scored a career-high 27 points in 42 minutes of action
The sophomore guard pulled down five rebounds dished three assists and got two steals
Titus scored all seven of Mercer’s overtime points
(1) Coach Gardner talks about getting a big road win:
“I’m proud of our team for finding a way to win a really hard-fought game on the road. ETSU killed us on the glass, specifically with 22 offensive rebounds, which were two more than we had on the defensive side. We got an early lead, but they beat us inside the majority of the game.”
(2) Gardner on playing without Thompson down the stretch:
“We aren’t used to seeing Amanda (Thompson) foul out, so it was great to see us respond and find a way to win without one of our most important players. Amanda is our glue and a lot of our offense runs through her.”
(3) Gardner on other players stepping up late in the game:
“KeKe (Calloway) did a great job of hitting some big baskets and toward the end made a great decision to find Shannon (Titus) on a backdoor cut in overtime. Obviously, Shannon was impressive all game.”