ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Keke Calloway scored 30 points and Mercer used a 11-2 fourth quarter run to take the lead and hold off Furman, 66-63, to win the 2019 Women's Southern Conference Tournament Championship at the U.S. Cellular Center Sunday afternoon.
Making its first SoCon Tournament appearance since 2000, No. 2 seed Furman (19-13) appeared primed for the upset after taking a 54-49 lead on a Tierra Hodges jump shot with eight minutes to go, but Mercer (25-7), the tournament's No. 1 seed, answered the challenge with an 11-2 run, getting eight points in the stretch from sophomore guard Shannon Titus, whose steal and layup with 2:45 remaining put the Bears up, 60-56.
The Paladins battled back behind Tierra Hodges, who converted a pair of free throws and a jump shot, and Taylor Petty, who drained three free throws with 48 seconds remaining to pull Furman to within 64-63.
A Rachel Selph layup on the ensuing possession pushed Mercer's advantage to 66-63.
Furman's Le'Jzae Davidson had three cracks at a potential game-tying basket in the final 20 seconds, coming up short on her first effort, then, after a pair of missed free throws by Mercer's Amanda Thompson, missing on a second try with five seconds to go and rimming out her final attempt at the final buzzer.
"It's a hard one to take," said Furman head coach Jackie Carson. "I'm so unbelievably proud of this team, their fight, their resiliency. We have 15 players, coaches (and) team managers who never counted us out. (They) gave us every single thing I asked of them this game, but in the end the ball didn't fall in our favor. But I couldn't be more proud than to be the coach of this team."
Petty led Furman with a season high 22 points, making 6-of-11 shots, including 5-of-8 attempts from 3-point range. Celena Taborn finished with 15 points and Hodges had 12.
The Paladins shot 34.4 percent in the contest (21-of-61) and knocked down 14-of-16 free throws.
Mercer made 27-of-60 shots (.450) with Calloway's 11-of-24 effort from the floor (5x12 3PFGs) leading the way. Titus finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The two teams battled to a 36-36 draw on boards.
Furman placed four players on the SoCon All-Tournament Team. Tierra Hodges and Taylor Petty garnered first team honors, and named to the second team were Le'Jzae Davidson and Celena Taborn.
By virtue of its second place regular season finish Furman will represent the SoCon in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), which gets underway on Mar. 20.