The awards keep coming for Mercer senior Precious Bridges.
But she has bigger goals than individual honors, and the pursuit of those goals kicks into high gear this weekend.
On Tuesday, Bridges was named the Southern Conference player of the week for the second time this season, and a day later, she was named the player of the month.
On Saturday, Bridges and the Bears make their Southern Conference debut at Western Carolina.
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“It was nice,” Bridges said of the player of the month award. “I got it because of my team. Yeah, I’m surprised. I just need to keep working hard and don’t let all the player of the month and player of the week stuff get too big for me. I just have to keep giving effort.”
Bridges has given plenty of effort this season. She leads the conference in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game, and she is playing 38.8 minutes per game.
The Bears carry an 8-8 record into Saturday’s game and then have a quick turnaround Monday at UNC Greensboro. Mercer has won two straight after suffering through a five-game losing streak following a road win over Alabama in December. That stretch included an ankle injury to senior Alicia Williams, who has returned to the starting lineup.
“We needed a bounce back. I kept thinking, ‘We have to bounce back soon, right?’ ” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said with a smile. “It was very encouraging to finish on a positive note after such a tough stretch.”
The Bears carry that positive momentum into their first Southern Conference games. Western Carolina is 8-7 overall and is led by senior Justin Taylor. UNC Greensboro is 5-10.
“When you start conference play, you have to raise your intensity level and your focus, and you also have a routine, which is nice,” Gardner said. “It’s almost like were playing non-conference because we’re having to learn these news teams. We know (the opponents) by numbers, but when you’ve been in a league for a while, you start to know them by name.
“It’s interesting to have to prepare a little bit longer, but on the other hand, our opponents don’t know us well either, so it’s the same on both sides.”
Bridges said she and her teammates are ready for the new challenge. Mercer’s roster features eight freshmen, so the four seniors have been preparing the new players for the rigors of conference play.
“It’s a new conference, and it’s new people, and I think we have a big challenge ahead of us,” Bridges said. “(The freshmen) know how important it is. We have been talking about it since the preseason. The beginning of our first season is over. They know it’s time to go to work.”