It almost has become expected. Kahlia Lawrence is going to earn a Southern Conference top honor at the end of each season.
The Mercer junior had another huge season and was recognized as the Southern Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday, earning the honor for the second year in a row. Lawrence was named the player of the year and an all-conference first-team selection by the coaches and media members.
Lawrence is just the sixth player in conference history to be named the player of the year in consecutive seasons, and she was also the conference’s freshman of the year in 2015. Lawrence is the first player in conference history to win the freshman honor followed by the player of the year honor in back-to-back seasons.
Fellow junior Sydni Means joins Lawrence on the coaches’ all-conference first team, and she was named to the second team by the media.
“I get to see her every day in practice, and I get to see the other side of Kahlia that other people don’t get to see,” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said. “I wasn’t certain she was going to get it this year because there are so many talented players in this conference. We have so many good players, and there are several players who could have also gotten it this year. She is very, very difficult to guard. She has a unique ability to score points in bunches.
“The other part of Kahlia that people don’t talk about a lot is we’re having her defend the other team’s best player, as well, so she’s playing both ends of the floor. But she’s a winner. Flat out, she knows how to score, but she also knows how to win.”
Lawrence averaged 18.1 points per game, including 18.9 in conference play, and she finished second in the conference in scoring. During the season, she surpassed the 1,500 mark in career points and the 500 mark in career rebounds. With 1,570 points, she is the conference’s active leading scorer.
“Super exciting. Actually, it’s pretty surprising to me,” Lawrence said. “We have some great players in our league. I’m really humbled to receive this honor again. I thank everybody who voted. It’s really amazing. I got it because of my coaches, my teammates; they make this possible for me, and I’m just extremely thankful.”
Means leads the conference in in assists (187), assists per game (6.7), steals (74), steals per game (2.64) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.53), and she is averaging 10.5 points per game.
“Sydni really came on strong last year in the conference tournament, and I think that’s probably when people said, ‘What a minute. Who’s that? Who’s that No. 1 for Mercer?’ ” Gardner said. “She does so well with her assist-to-turnover ratio, and she leads the conference in steals; she does all the little things besides scoring and rebounding that not the average fan notices.
“We would not be where we are at all without Sydni Means running our team offensively and defensively.”
Mercer (23-5) earned the second seed in the conference tournament and will face Wofford at 4 p.m. on Thursday in Asheville, North Carolina. The Bears shared the regular-season title for the second straight year with Chattanooga, which won the conference tournament title last year.
“We’ve been working hard all year. Not just for me, but this team,” Means said. “I’m so proud of Kahlia. She’s deserves everything that she’s earned. I’m ready to play on Thursday, though. It’s a great accolade, but we need to get a win on Thursday.”