ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The Mercer women's basketball program has never advanced to the NCAA Tournament since moving to the Division I level.
The Bears need just one more win to make that first trip a reality.
Mercer knocked off Furman 64-50 on Friday in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament to advance to Sunday's title game. The Bears improve to 24-7, while the Paladins fall to 15-16.
Sunday's game will mark Mercer's second trip to a conference tournament championship game as an NCAA Division I program.
The Bears lost to Florida International in the 1992-93 Trans America Athletic Conference title game.
TWO WHO MATTERED
Kahlia Lawrence: The sophomore guard finished with 18 points, hitting 8-of-21 shots from the floor.
Sydni Means: The sophomore guard had a second straight strong all-around game, playing all 40 minutes and finishing with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Bears' point guard hit 8-of-14 fromthe floor and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Mercer led by just three after the third quarter with Furman's Kelsey Ellis hitting a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the quarter to make it a 43-40 game. But Mercer outscored Furman 21-10 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Locking down on D: Furman shot just 30.9 percent for the game, hitting 17-of-55 shots. The Bears finished with six steals and forced 10 turnovers.
Doing the dirty work: Center Rachel Selph and forward Alex Williams combined for just 10 points, but they contributed in other ways. Selph had nine rebounds and seven blocked shots, while Williams added eight rebounds, including six on offense. Behind those two, Mercer had a 22-8 advantage in points in the paint and an 18-6 lead in second-chance points.
3-point offense: Furman hit 9-of-25 3-pointers (Mercer hit just one), but the Paladins made only eight shots inside the 3-point line.
Another big run: A day after taking control of its game against UNC Greensboro with a 19-0 run, the Bears scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to pull away from Furman.
Taking care of the ball: Mercer finished with just two turnovers.
THEY SAID IT
Head coach Susie Gardner: "Kahlia hit her first couple of shots, and that was a blessing compared to (Thursday). How about Syndi right here? I mean, Sydni played just an amazing, amazing basketball game. But everybody did. I just felt like we played one of our better games of the year."
Means on her aggressive play: "Coach always tells me I can take it and to be smart with my takes. This game, I saw the lane was open, and I just decided to take it to the basket at opportune times, and it just worked out for me this game."
Lawrence on bouncing back from an off game Thursday: "It was just falling for me in the first half. Like Coach said, thankfully the first couple went in. I got kind of in a rhythm, and I think I just did what I normally do."
Furman head coach Jackie Carson on Mercer's fourth-quarter run: "We were the elder team, in that (Mercer is) freshmen and sophomores, but they played with more poise down the stretch than we did."
Mercer will play Chattanooga at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the tournament championship game.