Leading by five points late in Saturdays game against Kennesaw State, the Mercer womens basketball team was looking for a spark to help put a pesky Owls squad away.
Coming out of a timeout with 5:03 to go in the game, the Bears received just that courtesy of senior guard Kendra Grant.
The Rutland product poured in nine points in a little more than two minutes to help the Bears hold on for a 64-59 victory.
After I got some open looks, my adrenaline starting going, Grant said.
Its the second win in a row for Mercer (11-9 overall, 4-5 A-Sun), which hosts Northern Kentucky on Thursday.
Grant, who finished with 19 points, got in a groove from the perimeter, draining a 3-pointer for a 50-42 Mercer lead, giving the Bears their only 3-pointer of the game.
Mercer looked to Grant during its next few possessions, and she delivered each time, finding ways to drain open jump shots in scoring four of the next five Mercer baskets as the Bears led 58-49 with 1:27 to play.
At the beginning of the game, they were what I would call Velcro-ed defensively to KG, and she was having a hard time getting open and we quit going to her, Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said. During that stretch, we were able to call some plays that involve her scoring and get her open. She was hot, so we kept going to her.
The other Mercer score during that stretch came from the other half of the Bears starting backcourt, Briana Williams, who found numerous ways to the basket Saturday on the way to a game-high 24 points.
Fortunately, we got stops when needed to. KG and Briana made some huge shots for us in crunch time, Gardner said.
The resilient Owls did cut the Mercer lead to as few as five points, but the Bears converted 3-of-4 shots from the free-throw line during the final 38 seconds to prevent Kennesaw State from making it a one-possession game.
Mercer had to turn back rallies by Kennesaw State throughout the game. The Bears dominated early on the defensive end, holding the Owls to one field goal and forcing 11 turnovers in the games first 11 minutes en route to a 16-3 lead just past the midway point of the first half.
I knew that they would come back, Gardner said. Theyre fighters, they get after you, they compete ... I did enjoy the start, though. Ill take those first 10 minutes any day.
Gardner was right.
Helped by strong play in the paint that enabled Kennesaw State to outrebound Mercer 41-28 for the entire game, the Owls made a comeback. A 7-3 run capped by a Lisa Capellan layup reduced the Mercer lead to single digits at 19-10, and the Owls trailed by three points late in the half and were able to hang close the rest of the game, keeping the Mercer lead no larger than 11 points.
But the Bears answered repeatedly, taking advantage of openings in the Kennesaw State defensive alignments to convert open shots within the perimeter.