JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Not only has Saturday afternoon’s 67-65 victory over Mercer earned the Jacksonville University women's basketball team the 4th seed in upcoming Atlantic Sun tournament, an achievement not seen since the 2008-09 campaign, the Dolphins have also snatched the right to host a home quarterfinal game.
“First of all, I just want to give all praise and honor to God for allowing my staff and I to come in and be a part of these young women’s lives,” said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “I’m so proud of their fight and commitment and belief … We were down but the girls never gave up. Everyone that played was instrumental to this win and I’m so proud of the girls and my staff. We just wanted to finish the season on a high-note and I’m just speechless.”
Shooting 9-of-17 from the floor, sophomore guard Queen Alford led all-scorers with 21 points, five steals and three assists. Sophomore forward Briona Brown added 14 points and freshman guard Sherranda Reddick posted 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
There wasn’t much action to report in the opening five minutes of the contest. Each squad converted on their opening possessions and the Bears owned a slight 3-2 tip until 14:35 when Alicia Williams hit a low post jumper.
By 13:11, Mercer held a 9-2 advantage but it wouldn’t last long. A steal and layup from Alford crowned a 6-0 run and suddenly the Fins were just down by one, 9-8, with 11:33 remaining. The guard later tied the game at 12-all and for the next six minutes momentum was heavily in favor of JU. Taking a lead as large as seven, 23-16, the Dolphins did their best to pull away but the Bears wouldn’t allow it. Back-to-back three pointers from Briana Williams which was followed by a jumper gave the Bears back a one point tip, 24-23, at 4:39.
Mercer then built a five point advantage and Reddick banged in a three-pointer to close the half with the Fins trailing, 28-26.
The Bears started the second frame working a 6-0 run until Reddick connected with Alford, 34-28, for a reverse layin (18:15). For the next 12 minutes things were not looking up for the Fins as Mercer sustained a 12-point cushion. Trading buckets wasn’t enough, the Dolphins needed a stop and with less than six minutes remaining the Green and Gold put on a show.
A pair of made free throws from senior forward Jade Cargill closed the gap to 55-47 and on the following play, JU trapped the Bears in the front court to record a steal and basket and force a Mercer timeout at 5:30.
Minutes later, the Bears regained their double-digit cushion, 59-49, until Brown kindled a 12-0 run where she went a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown. She set Swisher Gym ablaze when she tied the contest at 61-all on a trey from the right corner at 1:52 and then provided the Fins with a three-point tip, 64-61, on another from the same spot.
With 23 seconds left, the Dolphins owned a 65-61 lead until a foul sent Precious Bridges to the line for an old-fashioned three point play. There wasn’t a JU fan sitting in their sit as Bridges missed the free throw, 65-63.
On JU’s ensuing inbound play Kendra Grant stole the ball under the rim and attempted the close bucket but was rejected by Brown who later knocked in another two free throws to stamp the victory.
Saturday also marked Senior Night but Swisher Gym will not have to say its goodbyes to Cargill, Stephanie Edwards, Ciara McLee or Madison Scott just yet. The gang will lead their teammates on Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in a rematch with Mercer.
“It’s not a scout right now," said McCuin. "It’s all about heart and toughness and who wants it the most. The advantage of playing this team again is we know what they are going to do and they know what we are going to do. You can throw all the paper out. Coach Sue is going to have them ready and I’ll have my troops ready. We just ask that everybody comes out and gives us the support we need.”