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Bears sink teeth in Eagles
Mercer beats GS in Hanner
Georgia Southern's Alexis Brown, center, earns a trip to the foul line as Mercer's Kayla Potts, right, impedes her progress in the lane at Hanner Fieldhouse Tuesday.

 The Mercer Bears piled up a 23-6 lead after just one quarter of action and never looked back, defeating the Georgia Southern women’s basketball team by a score of 77-56 Tuesday at Hanner Fieldhouse.
    Kahlia Lawrence scored 17 points to lead the Lady Bears (6-1) while Sydni Means (14 points), Linnea Rosendal (12) and KeKe Calloway (11) all reached double-digit scoring in what was a strong and consistent team effort.
    “That’s a good team we played,” GS coach Kip Drown said. “We knew going in that we had to take care of the ball if we wanted to compete. We ended up with 26 turnovers, when we’d rather have about half of that.
    “The biggest thing was, I think, 12 of those came in the first quarter. It’s tough to bounce back from that.”
    Georgia Southern (2-5) led 6-4 early on, but Mercer ripped off 21 consecutive points stretching throughout the rest of the first quarter and into the early moments of the second period.
    The run put the Eagles behind for good, but didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of a loud and unique crowd. Tuesday’s unorthodox 11 a.m. tip off came as part of the Eagles’ second annual ‘Field Trip Day’ promotion. Over 750 students from Mill Creek Elementary and William James Middle Schools were on hand to cheer on Georgia Southern.
    The students in attendance may have gotten out of a few hours’ worth of school, but they received a master class on shooting by the Eagles’ Nakol Franks.
    While nearly every other Eagle struggled to find the basket in the first half, Franks exploded for seven 3-pointers over the first 20 minutes. Franks ended up tying a school record with eight 3-pointers on the day and led the Eagles with 26 points.
    “They weren’t coming out of the zone, so I knew I was going to get some shots,” Franks said. “It was just one of those days where a lot was falling. I wasn’t pressuring myself to shoot too much, but they kept giving me open shots and (the shots) kept going in.”
    “Nakol had a very impressive day,” Drown said. “She’s just a freshman, but with (Angel McGowan) out, we had to lean on her a little bit. It’s good to see her respond like that.”
    When play resumed in the second half, the Eagles were able to find a bit more success.
    Mercer had stifled Georgia Southern with solid zone defense in the first half, forcing many of the Eagles’ turnovers when GS tried to work the ball inside. Franks continued to find success shooting over the zone as she hit another 3, but ball movement and passing also improved to break the Bears’ zone.
    Patrice Butler scored all of her 13 points in the second half, operating for points in the paint and converting on all six of her free throw attempts.
    With the loss, the Eagles are now on a five-game slide after winning their first two games of the season. Georgia Southern travels to Savannah State for a Thursday night matchup and has a few more road games remaining before a more balanced conference schedule comes into play.
    “I was listening to a radio show where (Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo was saying that his team hasn’t had a chance to learn and grow because they’ve been playing and travelling so much,” Drown said. “That’s kind of where I see our team right now. We really want a win on Thursday. After that, we’re going to get back on the floor in practice and get ourselves ready for the conference schedule.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.