The Stetson women's basketball team captured the no. 2 seed for next week's Atlantic Sun Conference tournament with a 74-60 victory over Mercer in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon at the Edmunds Center.
Stetson will play seventh-seeded ETSU in the quarterfinals on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Sasha Sims scored a career-high 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting as the Hatters (21-8, 14-4 A-Sun) set a school-record for most conference victories in a single-season.
Victoria McGowan added 12 points and 11 rebounds for her 13th career double-double, while Jama Sharp pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds.
In an intense, physical battle which may be a precursor to the style of play coming in the postseason, the Hatters led by as many as 13 points in the first half before taking a 33-27 lead into halftime.
"Mercer is a much improved team, they are much better than they were when we played them earlier this season," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "We kind of kept a 10-to-12 point lead for a while, but Mercer decreased it right before halftime.
"I thought our response in the first five minutes in the second half was really good," Bria added. "We got two quick steals and four points and kind of got more of a cushion there."
Both teams traded baskets throughout the second half, but the Hatters never let Mercer get any closer than eight the rest of the way.
"Sasha is playing at such a high level right now and really carried us today," Bria said. "She did such a great job on their post player and that's hard work. I thought Shanasa did a great job on Precious Bridges, and we had a lot of other kids step up as well."
Bridges came into the game as the leading scorer in the Atlantic Sun, averaging over 17 points per game. With a strong defensive effort led by Sanders, Bridges finished with just two points and was held without a field goal in 13 attempts.
"We knew if we held her under her scoring average, we would have a good chance at winning," Sanders said about Bridges. "My main focus was to rebound, play defense, and then the offense picked up from there."
Stetson shot 42% for the game and outrebounded Mercer (19-10, 13-5) 41-38.
Notes: Stetson led the points in the paint category 42-28 ... The Hatters hit a three-point field goal for the 100th consecutive game ... Stetson committed fewer than 10 turnovers for the second straight game ... Sims topped 20 points for the third straight game ... Seniors Ashley Buis, Ashley Dennis, Victoria McGowan, Janelle Mills, and Shanasa Sanders and team manager Doron Thomas were honored before the game ... Stetson won 14 home games for just the second time in school history (also 14-1 in 2000-01) ... The full tournament bracket will be released tonight (Saturday).