MACON, Ga.- Conference play was just what the doctor ordered for the Jacksonville University women’s basketball team as they improved to 2-0 in the Atlantic Sun with a victory over Mercer on Saturday evening. JU ended the Bears’ four-game winning streak in the final ten seconds of the contest on a runner down the middle from senior guard Stephanie Edwards.
Back-to-back road wins pushed the Fins (5-8, 2-0 A-Sun) to the top of league standings while Mercer falls to 8-5 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Freshman guard Sherranda Reddick led all-scorers on the night with 17 points. Sophomore guard Queen Alford recorded 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals while senior forward Jade Cargill posted 10 points and seven rebounds. On top of knocking in the game-winning points, Edwards also contributed nine points, six boards and three assists.
After going back-and-forth on the scoreboard, the pendulum swung in favor of Jacksonville, 11-6, after an old-fashioned three-point play from freshman center Jenny Vernet (15:20). The pace of the game seemed to slow down over the next few minutes but by the midpoint of the period JU had stretched its lead to 15-10.
An 8-0 run which included four points from Cargill provided JU a 13-point cushion, 23-10, with 7:24 remaining in the frame.
The Bears crept within eight, 27-19, on a Kendra Grant and-one opportunity (3:38) but the Fins continued to sizzle from the floor and entered intermission up, 33-23.
JU took its largest lead of the contest, 52-34, with 14:22 remaining in the game when junior guard April Carson flexed her range on a three-ball.
Hawkins Arena was rocking in the final five minutes of the contest as Mercer closed the gap to single digits. Precious Bridges hit a jumper from the right wing to pull the Bears within nine, 60-51, at 5:04 and the team battled from behind to tie the game at 67-67 with 29 seconds on the clock.
After the deadlock, Coach McCuin called a timeout to regroup her team.
“The play was for us to attack and get to the basket,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “I told them not to panic if we didn’t score because I knew we could get a stop on the other end.”
The Fins listened and followed Coach McCuin’s direction to a tee. On the following inbound play, a JU foul away from the ball gave the Bears possession with 18 seconds left. Seconds later, Alford picked the pockets of Bridges and connected with Edwards for the go-ahead layup (69-67).
Mercer had one final opportunity to force the game into overtime but again turned the ball over and sent Edwards to the charity stripe who hit both free throws to give JU the 71-67 win.
“Stephanie has accepted the role as a leader from the first day her and I had our meeting,” continued McCuin. “I’m so happy for her! She puts in so much work and has done everything I’ve asked her to do. That play was just an example of her commitment to the game plan and what we are trying to do here.”
The Dolphins will have a week off before welcoming North Florida to Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m.
“Anytime you play your rival, records are out of the door” said McCuin. “It’s all about toughness and the team that wants it more; I’m going to side with JU.”