For the second consecutive season, the Mercer women’s basketball team has finished the season with an undefeated Southern Conference record.
To do so once is an extremely impressive accomplishment, but to do so twice can only be classified as one thing — special.
Their final win wasn’t handed to do them, though. Wofford (15-14, 7-7 SoCon) came to Hawkins Arena and took the Bears (22-7, 14-0 SoCon) to the very last minute, at times looking like they might be the time that finally takes the Bears down.
The Bears trailed Wofford for most of the first half, and ended up entering the halftime locker room behind 26-22. However, it was Mercer’s seniors who, on Senior Day, refused to lose their final game at Hawkins Arena.
After a back-and-forth start to the third quarter, senior KeKe Calloway knocked down a huge 3-pointer to tie the game. Moments later, fellow senior Linnea Rosendal connected on a 3-pointer herself to give the Bears a 36-33 lead.
Once the Bears got the lead, they never looked back. While the Terriers never went away, it always felt like the Bears were in control of their 65-59 victory.
(1) Mercer’s five woman senior class
Four SoCon regular season crowns, a SoCon tournament championship, two straight undefeated SoCon seasons, 34 straight SoCon wins, and 101 total wins — and counting. That’s what this year’s Mercer senior class, the winningest four-year class in program history, will leave with their legacy. Calloway, Rosendal, Rachel Selph, Amanda Thompson and Ally Welch have left their mark on Mercer basketball, and will always be remembered for the special things they have accomplished. However, the best parts might still be ahead.
(2) Looking ahead to the SoCon tournament
The Bears have long been a lock for the top seed in the SoCon tournament, but it became official on Saturday. Mercer (22-7, 14-0 SoCon) will open the tournament this Thursday against No. 8 seed Western Carolina (4-25, 0-14 SoCon). The Bears defeated the Catamounts twice this season. If they defeat the Catamounts, Mercer will face the winner of No. 4 seed ETSU versus No. 5 seed Wofford. The tournament will conclude on Sunday Mar. 10 with the tournament championship.
(3) If they win the tournament, what’s next?
This might be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but for a team that has gone two consecutive seasons without a single loss to a SoCon team — it’s at least worth thinking about. After winning the tournament last season, the Bears earned their first ever Division 1 NCAA Tournament berth. The Bears drew the Georgia Bulldogs for their first round matchup, and lost a close one. This year’s team is currently projected to face one of the country’s No. 2 seeds, which would result in a much tougher matchup. The Bears need to win the SoCon tournament, and win it convincingly if they wish to draw an easier matchup.
Player of the Game: KeKe Calloway (No. 0)
Calloway scored 20 points, the most of any player on either team in the game
The senior guard also grabbed five rebounds, dished out seven assists, and got a block and a steal to top it off
Calloway’s performance, along with her performance on Thursday, earned her the SoCon Player of the Week honor
(-) Head Coach Susie Gardner on another regular season crown:
“It’s something you don’t take for granted. It’s very difficult to win a regular season championship … everything has to go the right way all year long. For our fans to see us raise a trophy, that was special.”
(-) Gardner on pulling out the close win over Wofford
“As expected, it was another very close contest that went to the end. We’ve had those all year, so I guess you wouldn’t expect anything different. Wofford has a really good team and they kept coming at us, but I’m proud of our team and thankful for our crowd – they were so loud throughout.”