D2C 3rd Place: #1 Santa Cruz (#42) Outsteps #3 Houston (#53), 154-141

D2C 3rd Place: #1 Santa Cruz (#42) Outsteps #3 Houston (#53), 154-141 Photo by Danforth Johnson.

CLEVELAND, OH —Aiming for 3rd place in Cleveland is probably not where #1 seed Santa Cruz (#42), or many other people, thought they would be on the last day of this weekend’s D2 playoffs. Competitive with many D1 teams this season, it seemed to be chance that cemented their D2 invite, but the intensity of tournament proved they aren’t the only one hungry for the top. As a #3 seed, Houston’s dominating defense kept them coming back again and again, with 8 lead changes in the first half, and overcoming a 36-point deficit late in the game.

The two teams matched each other on jammer penalties at 10 apiece, and Houston only earned 5 more overall penalties, but it was the Boardwalk Bombshells’ edge in lead jammer percentage that helped them control poignant jams to seal the win, and their 3rd place medals, 154-141.

Both these teams seemed eager for what laid ahead, as they were both lined up with two forward middle blockers and two backwards-facing in lane 1 and 2, that they jumped-started at the ready whistle. When the game actually started, Queen Litigious was able to achieve the first lead of the game, but had Slayer Moon a half of a lap behind her, forcing the call-off at just two points. This scenario was common for many jams of the game, and Houston’s jammers put the pressure on in the next two jams to only let Santa Cruz inch up two points at a time, and sneaking in one point of their own.

In the fourth jam, Houston finally got their first lead call and Slayer Moon was able to pick up all four points, followed by four more for Brandi Brown which caused the first lead change of the game, 9-6 in Houston’s favor.

Defense on both sides started to lock down harder, and jammers often had to force a penalty on opposing blockers in the tightly knit packs before they could escape. Or they would squeeze out miraculously along the edge of the track, as TARAism did to pick up a grand slam and the lead back for Santa Cruz.

Houston seemed very comfortable walling up at the back of the pack, as they did from the jam start for most of the first half. It was a slow-moving wall that began to frustrate Bombshell jammers, and ultimately forced CoraZone into the first jammer penalty of the game, providing an opportunity for Houston to take the lead again. Their blockers attempted to play offense, but Santa Cruz’s recycling was quick and effective. After a minute of the jam surpassed, and CoraZone’s second cut, Bustin’ Beaver finally got through and a chaotic pack let her get back around for two grand slams, plus 3 more points to put them up 22-12.

Some penalty woes for Houston allowed Santa Cruz to gain some momentum back and with about 18 minutes left in the half, they brought it to a 1-point game. When they had all their blockers however, Houston could really prevent point hemorrhaging from happening. While Slayer Moon was stuck on her initial pass for a whole jam, Roasted Pony could only pick up one grand slam due to Kelly Kilpowski and Mistilla’s brutal knockouts. What could have been devastating, only put Santa Cruz back up by 4 points.

Santa Cruz’s defense was more dynamic, often swarming the jammer but had tendencies of falling apart when allowing room for the jammer to juke. Although, it was effective at forcing cuts, but again, Houston was able to put a stop to any momentum, and a penalty kill forced Queen Litigious to call a jam without any points.

Over a matter of 3 minutes, the two teams traded the lead with quick hit-it-and-quit-it jams, as jammers chased each other around the track. With 10 minutes left in the half, Houston was up by 2 points at 34-32.

Slayer Moon tried to force her way out of the pack in the next jam, but did so with a cut, providing Santa Cruz with an important power jam. 2x Force and Betty Watchett helped ensure that Queen Litigious wouldn’t have an easy time, and while she was stuck on her first scoring pass, Slayer Moon returned to the track. Even though she was only able to pick up one grand slam, Santa Cruz’s 3 point advantage by the end of this jam was the last lead change of the game.

With under 5 minutes to go in the first half, and down by 11 points, Brandi Brown let the jam run long, trusting her defense to take care of Queen Litigious while she tried bring up their score. Running the jam long forced a star pass to Hell Louise, who finished the jam with 12 points to Brandi’s 21, making it just a 2 point lead for the Bombshells.

In the final jam of the period, Queen Litigious went to the box with a forearm, allowing Houston a power jam, but Santa Cruz proved they could penalty-kill as well. Brandi Brown eventually passed the star to Poysenberry Pie, making it a full length jam giving 8 points to each side and ending the half, 71-63, Santa Cruz’s lead at the break.

The second half was much different from the first, as the jams became long and brutal as tiring jammers began picking up more penalties. Five minutes into the period, the two teams traded power jams, an event that happened about 4 more times in the half. Both sides were good at forcing jammers to the line however, and there were no giant point swings as a result.

Ten minutes into the half, neither side was letting up and after CoraZone and Bustin’ Beaver fought against the pack for 40 seconds, CoraZone left the track for a forearm penalty. Houston attempted offense for Beaver, but Santa Cruz was equally effective at blocking with only 2 blockers at a time, which kept her in the pack upon CoraZone’s return. The jam ended upon the two minutes expiring, as neither jammer made it out of their initial pass.

As the clocked ticked down to ten minutes left in the game, the intensity amplified and the packs got more chaotic as skaters scrambled to get points. Houston put Speed O’ in the star in an attempt to mix things up, but she could only add penalties, not points.

Houston’s highest scorers, Slayer Moon (43 game points) and Brandi Brown (68 game points) sought to save face late in the gam, with 15 and 17 points respectively, bringing the game to 154-141 with 33 seconds on the clock. In the last jam Santa Cruz had the edge at a 4:2 blocker advantage, and after 2 of her blockers provided offense, Queen Litigious was sprung free in time to get lead and end the game. With a 13-point victory, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Bombshells took 3rd place.

Find all the scores, recaps, and completed brackets at Cleveland Central.

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