Mercer women’s basketball team punches its ticket to the March Madness Tournament

Mercer WBB wins its 4th SoCon Tournament title in five years.

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (41NBC/WMGT) — Head Coach Susie Gardner and the Mercer women’s basketball team have set a new standard for the program. It’s a title, or it’s nothing.

The Bears have won their 4th Southern Conference Tournament championship in the last five seasons and have clinched their spot in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

“It never gets old,” said Gardner. “I’ll be honest with you; I told Coach Wierzba middle of the season, I don’t know if this team’s got it in them to win a championship because we had so many close games all year that could have gone either way that came down to end of game situations. But I don’t know what happened; you’d have to ask them. When we got to Asheville, they turned it up to the team that we thought that they were.”

The Bears had a similar trend through every tournament game. They would start slow and then go on these long-dominating runs out of nowhere, completely ripping the life out of the opposing team.

In the finals against Furman, the Bears went into halftime down one, and once they came out of the locker room, they outscored Furman 30 to four in the third quarter, taking the game into their own hands.

“Defense played a huge role. During practice, we talked about getting clean rebounds so we could run because we’re better in transition. So that’s one thing we focused on, and everyone was hot. JD was hitting shots. Erin was hitting shots. Shannon was hitting shots. So that really helped us get that big lead and get 30 points in the third quarter,” said Amoria Neal-Tysor, the SoCon Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Winning the Southern Conference title the last four out of five seasons is a remarkable feat in itself, yet the Bears still have one obstacle in their way. Winning the NCAA Tournament first-round game.

“I hope the NCAA committee will actually watch film. Like the eye test. Don’t just look at the RPI and whatever whatever they look at. Like, watch us on film. See how hard and well we play. You got to get a good seed. All these other guys that are jockeying for first and second seeds are doing the same thing. And I think the committee needs to respect the mid-major programs, not just us. But work as hard with us as they do for the one, two, three and four seeds,” said Gardner.

The Bears have lost to top-seeded teams Iowa and UGA in previous tournaments by only five points each, so Coach Gardner does believe seeding will make a difference in their outcome.

For now, the Bears will have to wait until Selection Sunday, March 13, to find out what region they play in, what seed they are, and who they will face in the first round.

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