MACON, Ga. (January 28, 2006) - Mercer (10-7, 6-3 A-Sun) battled back from a late second-half deficit, sinking three clutch free throws in the game's final 47 seconds, to top the Lady Bucs (12-6, 8-3 A-Sun), 61-57, Saturday in University Center. The loss came despite hot shooting from Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio) and B.J. Banjo (Baltimore, Md.), who tallied 21, and 17 points, respectively, both nailing five three pointers. Banjo also posted her second double double of the season, adding a game-high 11 rebounds.
Trailing for most of the second half, the Bears would claw back within one with 4:34 to go, when Sarah Russell hit a short jumper to make the score 55-54. Mercer then grabbed the 56-55 lead on a Rhonda Owens bucket with 3:04 left. Russell extended the lead to 58-55 with another make at 2:11.
Candace Gibson (Warner Robins, Ga.) then brought the Lady Bucs back within one, nailing a foul-line jumper with 1:56 to go. A pair of free throws by Megan delaRosa gave the Bears the three-point advantage, at 60-57, with 47 seconds on the clock. Owens would then net 1-of-2 with 27.1 ticks left, putting the final nail in the Lady Bucs' coffin.
Long-range shooting would carry the Lady Bucs, who shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc on the game, to a 42-34 lead early in the second half, as three of ETSU's first four field goals in the frame were three pointers; two coming from DeVault, and another from Banjo. DeVault's 21 points were a career high.
The hot-shooting Lady Bucs cooled off however, going scoreless nearly four minutes, allowing Mercer to tie the score at 42. Mercer's Erin Keller was just as hot from behind the arc, sinking four threes on the game, including the bucket that tied the score at 42 with 11:33 to go.
DeVault and Banjo would come through for the Lady Bucs once again, with DeVault making good on four free throws, and Banjo draining another trey to go up 49-44, with 9:07 remaining. ETSU would lead by as many as eight in the second frame.
Mercer put three players in double figures for the game with Keller with 12, Russell adding 11, and Owens with 10. Russell and Zsaquez Flucker led the Bears on the boards with nine apiece, while Gibson added 10 for the Lady Bucs.
The Bears gained a double-digit lead early, playing to a 12-2 advantage by the 14:09 mark. The Lady Bucs had trouble getting the ball in the basket in the opening minutes, netting only one field goal in the game's first 6:10.
ETSU then got the spark it needed from DeVault, who nearly single-handedly brought the Lady Bucs back within striking distance. The sophomore scored seven of the Lady Bucs' next nine points, and also picked off a Mercer pass, hitting teammate Alicia Holmes (Orangeburg, S.C.) under the basket for a score during the run. DeVault's surge brought the score to 12-11, with 11:59 remaining.
The Lady Bucs earned their first lead of the game at the 5:51 mark, when Banjo nailed a three to take the 20-18 lead. ETSU would ride a trio of Banjo threes in the final minutes of the half, leading by as many as four late in the period.
But the Bears wouldn't go away, connecting on a pair of baskets with less than 37 seconds to play to knot the score at 28 all. The Lady Bucs got the last word of the half however, as Holmes found an open Holly Moring (Irmo, S.C.), who drained a mid-range jumper from the corner as time expired, giving ETSU the 30-28 lead going into the break.
DeVault led all scorers with 11 in the first half, followed by Banjo with nine. The Lady Bucs shot 46.2 percent from long range in the period, with DeVault and Banjo sinking three treys apiece. Tanya Kessenich and Keller paced the Bears early, netting six points each.
The Lady Bucs will be off until next Saturday, when they travel to Boca Raton, Fla., to meet the Owls of Florida Atlantic for the second time this season. FAU handed the ETSU a 79-71 loss in Johnson City on Jan. 12. Game time is set for 2 p.m., on Feb. 4.