Ry'van, Briana lead Bears to strong finish


After another rough season that saw the Mercer Bears miss out on the 2012 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Championship, the Bears strung together back-to-back solid outings to win their last two games of the year.
As a result, the Bears finished at 6-23 overall and 4-14 in the conference, tied with Lipscomb for ninth. They were also 3-4 in February, which is a great place to build for next year. Sophomore guard Briana Williams was named to her second straight All-Atlantic Sun Second Team after leading the conference in scoring again. She scored the most points in any game this year by a Division I player, to which Coach Susie Gardner said “[Briana] showed signs of being unstoppable at times.” Freshman Precious Bridges was named to the All-Atlantic Sun Freshman Team as well.

Lipscomb 61, Mercer 67,
The Bears beat the other team in the Atlantic Sun cellar on February 23 in order to get their second win in five games. The most important mark in this game was Briana Williams scoring her 1000th point as a Mercer Bear, which is a remarkable feat for just a sophomore. She had 14 in the game, but the spotlight was on Ry’van Buchanan and the double-double that carried the squad. Her 22 points on 55.6 percent shooting and 10 rebounds carried the team on a night where Williams shot below average.
The big stat of the night was Mercer overcoming a halftime deficit by committing less than half the number of turnovers that the Bison did, 27-13. Despite the benches being near equal, a more balanced offensive attack from the Bears proved to be the difference.

Belmont 63, Mercer 77
The Mercer Bears continued to show improvement this season in Susie Gardner’s final game of her second season in command. After a victory against Lipscomb, the Bears went on to sweep the season series with the Belmont women. Led by a dominant duo performance of Buchanan and Williams, who scored 28 and 27 respectively, the Bears never trailed Belmont. This was the second time that Mercer tallied 48 in a half this season. They won both contests.

Mercer returns all 13 players on their roster next season. With the back-to-back Atlantic Sun scoring leader Briana Williams, a healthy and experienced set of point guards including All-Freshman Precious Bridges, and an explosive Ry’van Buchanan included, Gardner’s team looks to make a serious challenge at the dominant Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, who graduate several key seniors this May.
Gardner also is looking at this spring and summer as vital to the growth and maturation of her team. She is hoping that Williams will become “one of the elite players in our league,” and that Bridges “did great under the circumstances.”