TOWSON, Md. —In a game where both teams struggled on the offensive side of the ball, Monique Welch (Reisterstown, Md./Franklin) had a night to remember, sinking a layup with three seconds remaining to lift Goucher to a thrilling 43-42 victory over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the Landmark Conference opener for both teams.
That basket capped off an 18-point night for the sophomore, who finished one shy of her career-best of 19 set earlier in the season. Goucher (4-3, 1-0 Landmark) got off to a winning start in the Landmark for the first time since the conference was formed in 2007.
"We knew we were in a 1 and 1 situation," head coach Didi Cotton said. "So we really didn't want a jump shot unless it was uncontested. Everything else had to go to the rim. Monique's always been a really strong driver for us, and she was able to execute when it mattered most."
Welch's layup capped off a wild final 12 minutes of the game. Precious Kollock (Baltimore, Md./Patapsco) nailed a 3-pointer with 11:42 left to give the Gophers a 31-29 advantage, their first lead since the score was 2-0.
That shot keyed a 14-3 run for Goucher, which extended its advantage to 41-32 with 3:58 left. The Mariners (1-3, 0-1 Landmark), however, battled back with a 10-0 run of their own. A jumper from Sara Ellenberger gave USMMA a one-point edge with 30 seconds to go. Welch remained calm under pressure, driving towards the basket from the right side for the winning points.
"We haven't been healthy all season long," Cotton said. "One of the main things I told the team was that we couldn't worry about who we didn't have, we just had to take the best of what everybody could give us. The kids left everything they had on the floor, and I was incredibly proud of that."
USMMA was unable to get off a shot in the final three seconds. Kristina Walz had a game-high 20 points for the Mariners.
Neither team shot 25 percent from the field, with Goucher's 24.1 percent just edging out USMMA's 23.3 percent. The Gophers did, though, hit 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range, and Welch converted eight of her 11 attempts from the free throw line.
Sharnell Huff (Bowie, Md./Bowie) had a career-high 14 rebounds for the Gophers, and she also chipped in nine points. Kollock added eight points, making both of her 3-point attempts.
Goucher opened up its conference season with a win for the first time since defeating Mary Washington 68-53 to start Capital Athletic Conference play in 2001-02.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the girls," Cotton concluded. "They've repeated a lot of the things that the coaching staff has asked of them, and they've also stepped up to the challenge of not being comfortable with where they're at. We're ecstatic to get the win, but we know we have to keep working hard to make some headway in the conference."
The Gophers return to action next Saturday night with a 7 p.m. road non-conference matchup at Gallaudet. Goucher defeated the Bison 62-35 when the teams met last season.