The Mercer women’s basketball team has proven to be unstoppable and the team to beat by winning 12 straight games this season. The Bears racked up their ninth straight win on Feb. 9 at home against North Florida, 51-49.
With just 21 seconds left in the game, sophomore Precious Bridges dodged through the North Florida defense to drill a mid-range jumper and give the trailing Mercer Bears a thrilling last-second win.
The Bears clinched a spot in the A-Sun Championship for the first time since the 2009-10 season in Saturday’s win.
Senior Ry’van Buchanan led three Bears in double figures with 16 points while junior Kendra Grant chipped in 15 points to help with the win.
For the first half, the Ospreys came out on top and dominated offensively. With 12:44 left in the first half, UNF had a lead of 14-4.
Slowly Mercer would chip away at the Osprey advantage by tying it up 23-23 at halftime with a Grant lay-in.
Coming into the second half, the Bears fired on all cylinders starting up with a 19-10 run. Grant got off a jumper to give Mercer a 42-33 lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the contest.
North Florida fought its way back into the game and was able to tie the score at 46-46 with 1:41 left in the game.
The Bears and Ospreys exchanged buckets over the next two possessions, giving North Florida the 49-48 advantage, setting the stage for Bridges’ last second heroics.
After the impressive buzzer-beater win, the Bears won yet another game leading them to a 10 game win streak. Head Coach Susie Gardner captured her 200th career victory after downing Jacksonville 68-61 on Feb. 11 at home.
Senior Sharmesia Smith led four Bears in double-figures with a career-high 16 points. Bridges put up 12 points while Buchanan and sophomore Alicia Williams each had 10 points to join Smith in the scoring column.
Both teams started the contest trading buckets until a lay-up by Buchanan gave Mercer an 18-13 lead with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
The Bears lead got to as large as seven points until Jacksonville began fighting back. The Dolphins ended the half on an 8-0 run to make the score 27-26.
Coming out into the second half, the Bears were reenergized and ready to take the lead. A Bridges jumper put Mercer in front 37-33 with 17:08 left in the game.
Jacksonville did not give up, retaking the lead with a jumper, making the score 51-50 with 9:24 remaining in the second half.
The shot clock was quickly winding down when junior Sharnea Boykin put the Bears ahead by drilling her first three-pointer of the entire 2012-13 season to make the score 62-57 with 2:40 to go in the game.
With tremendous efforts, the Dolphins tried to come back and cut the Bears’ lead to just four, but Bridges nailed a long jumper with 1:16 left to seal the win for Mercer.
To rack up their 11th straight win, the Orange and Black traveled to Johnson City, Tenn. to beat East Tennessee State, 67-58, on Saturday evening.
Grant led all scorers with an impressive 23 points. Bridges also added 20 points of her own.
Mercer jumped out to a 12-6 lead early on, but ETSU ripped off a 9-3 run capped with a fast break lay-in to tie the game at 15-15 with 9:49 in left in the first half.
Even with Grant’s outstanding three point plays and back-to-back baskets, the Bucs kept the lead for the rest of the first half.
Going into halftime, ETSU had the lead 34-33, after Bridges made a jumper to keep things close.
To start the second half, Mercer came out more aggressive and on top, scoring the first nine points of the period to take a 42-34 lead with 14:35 remaining in the second half.
With 12:58 to go in the second half, Buchanan put up five straight points to extend the Bears’ lead to nine making the score 47-38.
Mercer continued to put points on the board, using back-to-back lay-ins by Williams and another three-pointer by Grant to push its lead to 59-42 with 7:28 left in the game.
From that point forward, the Bears kept control of the game, never allowing their lead to dip below nine points to secure the win.
After their 11th victory, the Bears knew that every game after that would not come easy.
USC Upstate proved a force to be reckoned with as the Bears had to score in the last minutes of the game to take the lead and earn a 55-54 win against the Spartans on Feb. 18.
Junior Precious Bridges led all players on the evening with 20 points, while sophomore center Teanna Robinson pulled down a career high 16 boards.
Mercer jumped to an early 11-6 lead, but USC Upstate battled back to take the 12-11 lead.
At halftime, the Spartans carried a 25-24 lead.
The second half saw Mercer struggle in the beginning, but light up the court at the end.
At one point USC Upstate had a seven point lead, but the Bears rallied back and were able to get the win.
The Bears now return to Macon for their final two home games of the 2013 regular season starting with a tilt against Northern Kentucky on Feb. 23. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Hawkins Arena.