Chattanooga and Mercer. Mercer and Chattanooga.
Entering the season, they were expected to be the top two teams in the Southern Conference women’s race, and that is exactly how the season has played out. The Bears (22-5 overall) and Mocs are tied for first place at 11-2 entering the final day of the regular season.
Mercer plays at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Samford, while Chattanooga hosts Wofford at 2 p.m. If Mercer and Chattanooga both win (or both lose), they will finish as co-regular-season champions for the second straight season.
“It’s a testament to how hard we’ve been working, and it shows how the program has gotten so much better,” Mercer junior Kahlia Lawrence said. “I’m really enjoying this time with my teammates, my coaches and everybody. It’s really great. It’s a great experience.”
Samford enters Saturday’s game at 11-17 overall and 4-9 in the conference. Mercer beat Samford 59-49 in the first meeting.
The conference tournament is next week in Asheville, North Carolina. If Mercer and Chattanooga finish tied, Chattanooga would get the No. 1 seed based on its sweep of Mercer this season.
“They always pose a challenge for us and every other team in the league,” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said of Samford. “We’re excited that we have the opportunity that if we were to come out a winner to be co-champions. It’s an exciting time for Mercer women’s basketball, for sure.”
Final road game
Mercer’s men’s team plays its final road game of the season at 5 p.m. on Saturday against Chattanooga.
The Bears are 13-16 overall and 7-9 in the conference, but they are 4-4 in conference road games. Chattanooga is 19-9 and 10-6 and has won four straight against Mercer.
Seven of Mercer’s conference losses have been by single digits, and five have come by three points or fewer. The Bears also had three non-conference losses by two points.
“We’ve just got to find a way to unlock what hasn’t happened here toward the end of the season,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “We’re trying to figure it out every day. We’re trying to figure it out.”
The Fort Valley State teams head to the SIAC Tournament next week in Birmingham, Alabama.
The men face off with Kentucky State in the first round at 1:15 p.m. on Monday. The winner will play Clark Atlanta on Wednesday.
The women will open against Tuskegee at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The winner will play Lane on Thursday.