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Strawberry’s game winner lifts Bears over Terriers in season finale

%0ADesmond+Ringer+posts+up+with+the+ball+against+Wofford+center+Matthew+Pegram.

Desmond Ringer posts up with the ball against Wofford center Matthew Pegram.

Desmond Ringer posts up with the ball against Wofford center Matthew Pegram.

Christian Hartley

Christian Hartley

Desmond Ringer posts up with the ball against Wofford center Matthew Pegram.

Christian Hartley, Staff Writer

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Wofford guard Trevor Stumpe pulled up for the jump shot with 15 seconds to go and drilled it, sinking the hearts of the Mercer faithful. Coach Hoffman called a timeout, attempting to draw up the perfect play to guide his team to victory.

“We actually changed the play right before we threw the ball in,” Hoffman explained after the game. “We put that play in about a week ago.”

The play was indeed perfect, as Bears guard Jordan Strawberry found himself wide open at the basket and laid in a dagger-like layup to lift the Bears to a 69-68 victory for their first win in Spartanburg, S.C. since joining the SoCon in 2014.

The senior guard finished the game with 21 points to lead all scorers, and also contributed six rebounds and six assists.

Trailing Strawberry’s 21 points was fellow senior Stephon Jelks with 12, as well as seniors Desmond Ringer and Demetre Rivers with 10 points a piece.

The game started off slow for both squads, as Mercer and Wofford were unable to find their rhythms offensively. Mercer went on an 8-0 run late in the first half to secure a 32-25 lead, but Wofford responded with a 5-0 run of their own to cut the Bears lead to 32-30 going into halftime.

The second half started off with the Terriers making a run of their own, outscoring Mercer 15-6 through the opening five minutes to take a 45-38 lead, their largest of the game. This time it was Mercer’s turn to respond, and they did just that.

Mercer stretched out a 12-2 run to take a 50-47 lead with 11 minutes to go, mostly off of nine Jordan Strawberry points early in the second half.

From then on out, the game would go back-and-forth with the two teams swapping momentum at every turn. Despite Mercer leading for nearly 65 percent of the game, the Bears were never able to put the gritty Terriers away on their home floor.

The final minute saw both teams consuming each second of their allotted shot clock. After a Desmond Ringer miss gave the Terriers the ball back with under 30 seconds to go, Wofford called a timeout to try and draw up the winning play. The rest is history.

The Bears finished the game shooting an even 50 percent from the floor, and hitting seven shots from beyond the arc. The Bears hit 14-of-15 free throw attempts compared to just 6-of-9 for the Terriers, providing Mercer with an important cushion throughout the afternoon.

Mercer finishes the season on an eight game win streak, improving their record to 18-13 and 11-7 in the SoCon.  The Bears have secured the #4 seed in the SoCon tournament next weekend, and will face a familiar opponent in the quarterfinals matchup.

Yes, that’s right; the Bears and Terriers are now locked in for a matchup in just under one week’s time in the quarterfinals of the SoCon tournament. The Bears swept the season series over the Terriers, but in the SoCon tournament, anything can happen.

“This team just believes in each other and they have consistently maintained their hope even though we might have been struggling during the early part of the conference season,” Hoffman said. “I’m just thankful that these guys are able to experience this now. Our guys are believing at a high level right now.”

The SoCon tournament kicks off on Mar. 2 at 5 p.m. (ET) from Asheville, N.C, but the Mercer Bears will not play until Saturday Mar. 3 at 2:30 p.m. (ET). The games will air live on ESPN3, and as always, you can tune into Mercer Sports Radio Network for live radio coverage.

 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Strawberry’s game winner lifts Bears over Terriers in season finale”

  1. Kenneth Lemoine on February 25th, 2018 7:15 pm

    I just want to give my own take on this and how both men and women teams should prepare for the tournament: DO NOT GET ARROGANT!!!! It’s no longer about the streaks, it is about trying to get a spot in March Madness. I post this because I have seen it happen many times in professional sports, for instance the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the MLB’s Cleveland Indians, and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. All those teams had everything going for them, the best record, a nice, long streak, etc. Then come playoff time, it all blew up in their face because they were trying to keep their strong image by beating the team without having to put in much effort. That is not how it works when a championship is on the line. They need to play hard and keep their focus on winning the tournament. If they put in the effort required of them to win, Mercer will be going back to the big dance!

  2. Anthony Hooker on February 27th, 2018 12:28 pm

    Echoing the earlier post. Play with confidence but please remain hungry! The ladies’ look like they will advance but could suffer an injury.
    Fellas, admire the heart you have shown of late but please play hard and smart

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Strawberry’s game winner lifts Bears over Terriers in season finale