Mercer students surprise Lady Bears during big game
January 27, 2016
On a rainy Thursday night last week, the student body at Mercer University came out in full force to support the women’s basketball team in their biggest game of the season — and kept it a secret for over a week.
Tony Perella, a Mercer football player and president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, coordinated the surprise, ensuring that it ran smoothly and was kept under wraps. Earlier in the year at the Mercer basketball kick-off event, Coach Gardner mentioned that the student body rarely turned out to support her team.Perella took it to heart and decided to make a change. He successfully mobilized Mercer students, creating energy and excitement around the surprise.
“I took a lot of leaders from around the campus and put them in a GroupMe together, and we started figuring out ways that we could make the surprise happen,” said Perella.
By the time all of the students were gathered in the UC awaiting the signal to fill the basketball stadium, there was some jockeying to get to the front of the line. The students were excited.
The signal came while the Lady Bears were in their locker room, and 388 Mercer students raced into the basketball arena from the upper UC, just minutes before the tipoff. As the basketball team rushed out onto the court, they were met with a full student section, the Mercer Marching Band, the cheer and dance teams and the Mercer Maniacs, along with other screaming fans from Macon. Coach Susie Gardner and her team were shocked. That shock quickly turned into excitement and anticipation for sophomore Sydni Means, one of the team’s top scorers.
“When we ran out and saw the student section I got so hyped,” said Means. “I knew it was going to be a good game.”
She was correct. Heading into the game, both Mercer and Chattanooga were undefeated in the Southern Conference, holding 3-0 records. Chattanooga, however, hadn’t lost a conference game since 2013, and had a 52-game winning streak in Southern Conference play.
Although the game between the Mocs and the Bears was tight through the first quarter, the Bears held a 34-26 lead at halftime. The never looked back. The Bears cruised to a 67-44 victory.
Means says that having an energized student section throughout the game helped her team build momentum out on the court.
“The energy on the court was great,” said Means. “When something went well, the fans made it known, and that was very helpful.”
The Bears’ next home game is on Thursday, February 4th against Western Carolina. The Bears are 14-6 on the season.