In front of a packed house on senior night, the Lady Titans delivered quite possibly their best performance of the year as they defeated the reigning 12th region champion Southwestern Lady Warriors, 55-42.
Thursday, Feb. 16, was undoubtedly a date the Lady Titans have been eyeballing ever since suffering a devastating loss to the Lady Warriors in the 2022 12th Region tournament championship game.
Southwestern has been a thorn in the side of the Lady Titans, ending Mercer’s season and state title aspirations in consecutive years. The Lady Warriors have positioned themselves as the main obstacle Mercer must overcome as they once again set off on the road to Rupp Arena for the girls sweet 16 state tournament.
The latest battle between the two 12th Region juggernauts started with a moment that challenged even the most hardened of spectators to not shed a tear. After suffering a season ending injury early in the year, senior Timberlynn Yeast suited up for her final home game in a Mercer uniform. Southwestern showed a tremendous amount of respect and sportsmanship by allowing Yeast to record her 1,000th career rebound. The feat earned Yeast the honor of becoming the first and only Lady Titan to finish with a thousand rebounds and over two thousand points in a career.
As her peers and the Mercer faithful rose to their feet and began to applaud, Yeast exited the floor for the final time. Meanwhile her teammates dug in defensively and prepared for the task ahead. The Lady Warriors forced the ball into the post and found success early against Mercer’s defense, free throws and a layup gave Southwestern the 8-5 advantage half way through the first quarter. Freshman Teigh Yeast did her best impression of big sister, scoring on a strong take to the rim, narrowing the gap to one point.
At the 4:00 minute mark, the Lady Titan defenders forced a Southwestern miss. Junior Anna Drakeford capitalized by driving the length of the floor and finishing her solo fast break with a crafty layup, pushing Mercer ahead 9-8 for the first time in the contest. Over the course of the ensuing minutes, both teams played stingy defense. Senior Lindsay Jessie broke the drought, scoring off a hard earned offensive rebound and put back.
Senior Hope Lanham splashed a 3-pointer at the 1:20 mark of the first quarter giving Mercer a 14-8 lead. For the first time all season, all Lady Titan seniors scored in the first quarter.
The Lady Warriors showed their resiliency by battling back within one point by the end of the first period…