Gophers Hold Off Mariners, Complete Season Sweep

Gophers Hold Off Mariners, Complete Season Sweep

KINGS POINT, N.Y. — Goucher jumped out to an 20-point lead in the first half, then withstood a furious rally from Merchant Marine after the intermission before ultimately holding on for a 62-59 victory to wrap up a season sweep of the Mariners.

The Gophers (6-14, 2-8 Landmark) never trailed, but Merchant Marine (4-15, 0-10) had a chance to tie the score in the final seconds. Alexandra Winfree's 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, allowing Goucher to grab their first conference win since topping the Mariners back in December.

Sharnell Huff (Bowie, Md./Bowie) continued her recent trend of strong performances, leading all scorers with 25 points and hitting 6 of 12 attempts from 3-point range. She has now averaged an even 25 points per game over her last four contests. Amaka Ezeani (Silver Spring, Md./Paint Branch) added 15 points and 10 rebounds, registering her second double-double of the season.

The Gophers enjoyed a dominant first half, taking control right from the opening tip. Ezeani hit a layup 12 seconds in, igniting an 11-0 run to start the game. Merchant Marine did not get on the scoreboard until Rebecca Resor converted a 3-point play nearly six minutes into the contest.

That was only a temporary setback for the Gophers, however, and another Ezeani layup lifted Goucher to a 36-16 lead with 2:28 to play, its largest lead of the half. Seven Gophers entered the game in the opening 20 minutes, and all seven hit at least one field goal.

Goucher's defense forced 10 first half turnovers, and limited the Mariners to a 25.6 field goal percentage. The Gophers also moved the ball around, with an 11-3 advantage in first half assists.

Merchant Marine, though, had whittled the deficit down to 38-24 at halftime, and the Mariners continued to cut into Goucher's lead in the second half. A jump shot from Sara Ellenberger made it 55-51, Gophers, with 5:01 remaining, forcing head coach Didi Cotton to call timeout.

Goucher responded with back-to-back layups from Ezeani and India Perkins (Brentwood, Md./Bladensburg), and a layup from Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass./Springfield Central) gave the Gophers a 61-53 advantage with under two minutes to play.

That would be Goucher's last field goal of the game, however, and Demi VanDerWal hit two free throws to reduce the lead to 61-59 with 53 seconds left.

After Huff hit 1 of 2 free throw attempts, the Mariners had their first chance to tie the game, but Kelsey Hoffman missed a 3-pointer. Burston then missed the front end of a 1 and 1 to give Merchant Marine one last shot, but Winfree could not convert.

Burston and Precious Kollock (Baltimore, Md./Patapsco) both had solid, all-around games for the Gophers. Kollock totaled five points, six rebounds and a season-high seven assists before fouling out, while Burston managed seven points, five boards and six assists. Both also had three steals.

Long range attempts made a big difference in the final outcome, with Goucher converting on 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range. The Mariners, on the other hand, could only connect on 1 of 13 long distance shots.

The Gophers have now won three straight over Merchant Marine, and they swept the Mariners in a season series for the first time since 2010-11.

Goucher returns home to the Decker Sports & Recreation Center for its next matchup, a 7 p.m. tilt against Juniata on Wednesday,