The clock began to wind down inside the US Cellular Center in Asheville, NC. The Mercer Bears were locked in a tight battle with Furman and looked to be on the verge of losing their first Southern Conference game in nearly two years.
Center Rachel Selph, a Dodge Country High School graduate, drove hard to the basket, flipped the ball up in the air and watched it drop through the net for a layup.
It would be the final basket in a 66-63 win for the Bears. Selph said she didn’t realize the significance of that basket at the time.
“I really didn’t think about it until after one of my family members texted me,” she said. “I was just in the moment, in the game. Then we won and I didn’t even think about it in the moment.”
The senior from Eastman, Georgia, has put together a career-best year this season setting personal records for points, rebounds and assists. She was named to the All-SoCon tournament second team for her contributions during this year’s tournament, a showcase of her transformation into one of the program’s key players over the last four seasons.
Despite that constant growth, Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said Selph walked on campus four years ago ready to make an impact.
“She came in highly, highly skilled,” Gardner said. “I have been a lot of different places and she probably has the best skill set of any post (player) arriving as a freshman.”
Selph found her voice during her senior season as she showed more emotion after blocked shots and made baskets.
“I feel like I have been a lot more confident this year. I haven’t been worrying about missing,” she said. “I have just been able to be a big help to my team.”
She will need to have that confidence as the Bears take on Iowa in the NCAA tournament. Selph will be one of the players tasked with matching up against one of the best players in the country, Megan Gustafson.
She said she is ready for the chance to compete and that last year’s experience will be a valuable asset this time around.
“It has helped that we have been through it already. We know how to act,” she said. “I am very excited.”
Selph playing college basketball only an hour away from her high school allows for some of her family and friends to support her at home games over the last four years.
“It has been amazing because this is like my second home,” she said. “Not just my family has been able to come but people from my town, friends. It has been great… I have my own little crowd in the middle of the stands.”
Selph said one of her favorite moments from her time at Mercer was winning the SoCon tournament this year. She said some of that stemmed from not knowing if they would have the chance to repeat after losing key pieces from last year’s team.
“We didn’t really know what it was going to be like but we just came out, we were focused and we won,” she said. “That was a big moment.”
Gardner said she has enjoyed the chance to coach Selph throughout her college career because she never had to worry about her. Selph always attacked each practice and game with a desire to do her best.
“She was a great player. She had some big moments for us,” Gardner said. “She has just been a joy to have in our program. She gave us no problems for four years… just a player that I am really going to miss.”