Most impactful Mercer sports moments of 2015-16
April 28, 2016
Thoughts on these moments? How do you want to rank them? Let us know in the comments below.
The #BEARSTRONG movement
*Editor’s note: Many times in the midst of tragedy, sports brings people together. Similar to David Ortiz addressing Fenway Park after the Boston Bombings or Mets catcher Mike Piazza’s emotional eight inning home run at Shea Stadium 10 days after 9/11, the events that transpired after the death Jibri Bryan brought the student body together as one, cohesive unit. We were Bear Strong.The text that appeared before mentioned only Jibri’s vigil, and the moment itself was titled “Jibri’s Vigil.” The vigil was a moment, standing on its own, that was somber and poignant. This moment was not included for entertainment purposes nor was it at the expense of the Bryan family or his teammates. The moment was meant to highlight the support and school spirit that blossomed out of our university’s darkest hour. We failed to make that clear in our article.
We apologize. The original text remains below.
*Addition: The original bracket picture has been removed, and the title has been changed from ‘Top Mercer sports moments’ to ‘Most Impactful’.
After Mercer basketball’s Jibri Bryan was shot and killed Feb. 2, several hundred people congregated on the floor of Hawkins Arena to mourn the loss of the sixth-year senior. Mercer’s university chaplain, Craig McMahan, spoke in front of the grieving crowd as Bryan’s jersey rested on a chair and all of the scoreboards read “34,” Bryan’s number.
There is a new Rule in town. Following in his brother Trey’s footsteps, Hayes Rule is making a name for himself. Rule posted a career best 67 (-5) at the Furman Intercollegiate. The freshman recently earned a starting spot and has not looked back.
In front of a record-setting crowd, redshirt sophomore Desmond Ringer scored a game-winning basket with 17 seconds remaining in overtime to down Southern Conference foe Wofford 70-69 at home. Ringer finished with a season-high 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and five rebounds. The win kept the Bears in the early race for the No. 1 seed in the SoCon tournament.
Freshman cross country runner Ahmed Jama won Mercer’s home meet, the Julius Johnson Invitational, Sept. 25 with an 8K time of 26:52.16. After leading the team in the first two races of the season, Jama paced Mercer’s victory in the four-school event.
Women’s soccer goalkeeper Maggie Cropp
The team’s season was on the line, and senior goalkeeper Maggie Cropp saved the day when it was needed most. After 110 minutes of play, the Bears were tied 1-1 with Samford in the semifinal of the SoCon Tournament. Mercer ousted the Bulldogs 4-3 in penalty kicks as Cropp was able to stop one of Samford’s tries.
Mercer men’s golf and volleyball received the Public Recognition Award this year from the NCAA for their APR (Academic Progress Rate). Only the top 10 percent of Division-I programs in each sport receive the recognition. The multi-year rating — which is based off academic performance such as eligibility, graduation and retention rates — is indicative of the programs’ performance over the last four seasons.
Football beats Chattanooga
Mercer’s football program earned its greatest victory since reinstatement Nov. 7 with a 17-14 win over then-No. 3 Chattanooga. It was the Bears’ first SoCon win of the year after several close losses, and the victory ended a 12-game SoCon winning streak for the Mocs.
Senior Jenna Gipperich has a pair of victories in the 5000-meter for Mercer women’s track this season. She posted a time of 18:08.7 in her first win at the Gamecock Quad Meet March 12, a full minute ahead of teammate and second-place finisher Victoria Rogers. In her second victory, Gipperich posted a time of 18:18.75 in the Beynon Sports Catamount Classic April 15-16.
Mercer women’s basketball sophomore Kahlia Lawrence won SoCon Player of the Year after leading the Bears to a share of the regular season conference title. She averaged 18.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on the season, highlighted by a 36-point performance against UNC Greensboro and 34 points to clinch the title against Furman
Women’s golf SoCon honors
Freshmen Mary Janiga and Payton Schanen were named to the All-SoCon and All-Freshman Teams after a season in which both recorded an individual tournament victory. Janiga finished sixth in the conference with a 74.11 scoring average; Schanen wasn’t far behind, finishing at 74.57.
Mercer women’s basketball
The Bears clinched a share of the regular-season Southern Conference title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament after going 22-7 and 12-2 in conference play. The title was the program’s first since 1991-92, when it claimed a share of the Trans America Athletic Conference regular season title.
Women’s golf wins tournament
Mercer women’s golf claimed its first title since October 2013 with a victory at FGCU’s Eagle Invitational Feb. 14. Freshman Payton Schanen won the tournament individually at 4-under while sophomore Jaelyn Tindal and junior Marin Hanna placed third.
Junior safety Zach Jackson pulled down an interception in overtime to clinch Mercer’s second straight conference victory, a 27-20 win on the road over head coach Bobby Lamb’s previous school, Furman. Jackson ended the game on the Paladins’ first offensive play of overtime after the Bears scored. All three of the program’s SoCon victories have been sealed with a Jackson interception.
Tears were flowing, but those tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy after sophomore Demetre Rivers threw down a monstrous dunk midway through the first half of Mercer basketball’s emotional 88-72 victory over The Citadel — four days after the death of Jibri Bryan. Rivers, who scored 16 points in the game, said he “just wanted to rip the rim off . . . I wanted to get one for [Jibri].”
Men’s basketball record start
The men’s basketball team jumped out to the best start at 8-1 in program history since becoming an NCAA Division I team in 1973. The stretch included a tournament victory in the Challenge in Music City, and its lone loss was on the road at Davidson.
After losing two days before to Georgia in 10 innings, Mercer baseball avenged its loss with a Trey Truitt walk off home run in the 10th against Xavier. It was the first walk off in extra innings since Kyle Lewis’ double in the bottom of the 11th against Belmont March 1, 2015.