Following Mercer’s opening-round victory on Wednesday night in the General Shale Atlantic Sun Men’s Basketball Championship, Jakob Gollon made his way through a two-foot wide tunnel of Bear fans, students and cheerleaders – high-fiving and hugging his way through the throng.
It was the closest he came to being slowed down all night.
Gollon equaled his career high, scoring 19 points -- including a pivotal 3-pointer with a little more than a minute remaining – as the Bears dispatched Lipscomb 61-53 on their home floor at the University Center.
And he did it all with his parents, Jerry and Debra, in the stands for the first time in his college career.
“I knew that at the end of that tunnel were my parents,” the 6-foot-6 sophomore said. “They’ve never had a chance to see me play collegiately and I was fortunate enough to have a game that I could smile upon when it was done. It was very emotional.”
Gollon’s parents drove three hours from their home in Stevens Point, Wis., to the Milwaukee Airport. After a two-hour flight to Atlanta, another 90-minute car trip brought them to the Mercer campus.
“It was well worth every second,” Jerry Gollon said.
Debra Gollon said the distance and transportation costs had previously stood in the family’s way of being able to watch their son play in person. They normally catch Mercer games on the internet.
“Nothing can replace being here in person,” Debra Gollon said. “Jake has always talked about how special it is to play here and how neat it is that they get to host the (A-Sun) tournament.
“He’s always said, ‘If you’re ever going to come, that would be the time to come.’”
So the Gollons “pinched their pennies” and were able to attend their son’s coming-out party.
In addition to tying his career scoring high, Gollon made a career-best eight field goals and drained a career-high three 3-pointers, including the last one, which gave the Bears (22-10) a seven-point lead and much-needed separation with 1:07 remaining.
“I was in tears,” Debra Gollon said.
In a tightly-contested game that saw six ties and six lead changes, Gollon’s offense allowed the Bears to keep pace with Lipscomb (13-18) on an off-night for Langston Hall, the team’s leading scorer.
Eight of Hall’s 11 points came in the second half. For 25 minutes, however, Gollon couldn’t miss.
He made his first five shots, including two 3-pointers, before missing his next three attempts. A spinning layup with 8:21 remaining gave the Bears a 41-37 lead. Less than two minutes later, Gollon laid another basket in before hitting the momentous 3 late.
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman called Gollon a warrior.
“I wish (Gollon) could play for me another 50 years,” Hoffman said. “He’s a special dude.”
Brandon Webb is a freelance sports writer who resides in Macon, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.