ST PAUL, MN – The semi-final game came down to the last jam, when clock management made the final deciding difference between Gotham maintaining its undefeated record, advancing to fight for the title once more, and being taken down by Victoria.
From controlling lead jammer status to controlling the pack VRDL outplayed Gotham in the first half without question. The second half was slightly, but significantly, in Gotham’s favor. Lead calls were even, but Gotham outscored Victoria despite having more overall penalties.
Debatably, it could be said that the game-deciding moment came less when Gotham took the score lead, but instead when Gotham called two consecutive time-outs (one an official review used as a time-out) to rest Bonnie Thunders before sending her back to the line for the third jam in the row.
With a barely-there win over Victoria, who held the score lead for almost 56 of the 60 game minutes, Gotham finally ensured their place in the Championship game, 143-141. This game became notably both the closest score to defeat that Gotham has experienced in their history of unbroken wins, as well as the longest that they have trailed in the score in any game in that time.
Bonnie Thunders had already grabbed lead jammer call in the first jam when Christy Demons headed to the box on a track cut after removing the star from her head for a star stash. One scoring pass later, Bonnie Thunders earned a forearm penalty, and Christy Demons went on to tie the score with that powerjam, 5-5. Thunders returned to the track before the jam ended and each jammer added an additional 5 points to leave the jam on 10-10.
In the next jam, Vicious van GoGo was sent out after pulling a cut penalty, a trend that continued from the first game. She was then joined by Roxy Dallas and Flo It All, as Gotham struggled to contain their penalties, and Victoria’s second key jammer, Mary Fagdalene, quietly added in 4 unreplied points to take the lead for Victoria, 14-10.
Though Gotham would bring to the score to only a 1 point differential multiple times during the half, they would not pull ahead of Victoria until the final minutes of the game.
Victorian jammer Giles earned lead after slipping through a thinned out Gotham defense, adding 3 points and shutting out Bonnie Thunders, who got caught in Victorian defensive lines.
Christy Demons then picked up the third lead jammer for Victoria, spurring a team time-out by Gotham. The time-out came very early in the game -early enough that many coaches wouldn’t consider burning one – but it was clear that for a team that rarely chooses to take time-outs, Gotham was in desperate need of a reset. After the time-out, Bonnie Thunders took lead jam status and closed the score gap to 19-21, with the game lead still in Victoria’s hands.
The penalties they earned played a major part in Gotham’s inability to recover from the initial blows that Victoria’s strong defensive play struck. For the second time in the tournament, Gotham found themselves often playing at least one blocker down. During multiple jams, Gotham was unable to form, much less maintain their classic defensive formations due to the number of players in the box, an issue that Victoria did not struggle with.
Meanwhile, Victoria was quick to take strategic advantage of their great pack presence, and utilize power jams to their maximum, adding to their ability to secure lead and run up the score. Victoria’s defense was especially strong when in their favorite track formations – a power quad or tripod. Their blocker penalties were mostly earned at the top of the pack where Bicepsual, Tui Lyon and Bamma continually held up Gotham’s jammers, while also choosing to blocking backwards one on one into the last inches – often just long enough for Victoria’s jammers to sprint out of the backfield to lead jam status.
While on a scoring pass, Bonnie Thunders blocked the Victorian jammer with star in hand, preventing a star pass and the opposing jammer from escaping the pack, but earned herself a cut on the ensuing pirouette and landed herself in the box for the second time in the half. Thoughtful jammer engagement, while Thunders’ strong suit in the end, was far less useful to her at this point in the game.
Later in the half, while two blockers down, Bonnie Thunders chose to join her teammates on defense, successfully knocking out Mary Fagdalane twice before reverting to offense after one blocker was released, ending the jam on a tied score of 52-52, with just under six minutes remaining in the period.
Christy Demons earned lead for the third consecutive time over Shortstop and enjoyed a power jam which put Victoria back in the lead 61-52. In the first half, Christy Demons scored 59 points and earned lead 6 out of 7 jams. Her consistency and scoring power continued to be crucial to Victoria’s success in this game as it has throughout the tournament. While Victoria’s offense was certainly strong, their defense was arguably the key to their success. From locking down jammers behind a rotating power quad and forcing smaller jammers to push forward by taking away their speed and space to impressive and consistent one on one blocking at the top of the bridge, Victoria’s defense found a way to stifle Gotham’s notable scoring power.
After 30 minutes of dominating play Victoria held the lead 82-70 over Gotham, making this the second time in five years that Gotham has been down at the half.
The second half of play was markedly different. Instead of Victoria calling all the shots as they very much had up to that point of the game – their game control and defensive lines making it very much their half – Gotham stepped up after the break and began to match their play in the second half. Though Victoria continued to hold score lead for the large majority of the second half, Gotham’s responses began to be effective – they made changes to their rotation, reduced their penalties, and finally found a strategy to tackle the lone blocker at the top of the bridge.
Christy Demons opened the half for VRDL with 1 single point addition, while Victoria effectively worked at shutting out Thunders. Then several jams later, Shortstop’s 9-0 addition while jamming for Gotham brought the score within 1 single point between the teams, at 82-83.
Bonnie Thunders took the line with two of her blockers sitting in the box, and Christy Demons grabbed lead easily, making quick work of the reduced opposition numbers in the pack. Both teams traded lead calls (though not back-to-back) throughout the half, for an even 50% each across period 2, which was punctuated early on by Victoria as they went on a six jam lead streak, holding Gotham notably scoreless for four jams. About halfway through the final period, Gotham called a team time-out – the score sitting at 95-82. And after that brief break, Miss Tea Maven finally broke that four jam scoring drought for Gotham, by stealing a slim 3 points to VRDL’s 2.
Late in the second half Bicepsual fouled out, which proved a huge loss to Victoria. But then only a few jams later Gotham’s Sexy Slaydie fouled out as well, effectively evening out the pack as both teams lost a key ‘enforcer’.
Gotham took the lead to a slim 2 point differential, at 134-132, with just 4:17 to go in the game, thanks to an unreplied 10 point jam by Bonnie Thunders, while Victoria’s PorFavor was trapped in the pack on her initial pass after being sent out for her first jam of the game, cold. Victoria responded to this shift by spending their last team time-out, to extend the break for their regular jammers.
Eventually it could be said that smart clock management from the bench coaches of Gotham, and on the track by Bonnie Thunders, ensured that the reigning champs would live to fight on in the final game. In the penultimate jam, Bonnie Thunders ran the clock down by slowing Christy Demons down, then knocking her out and speeding up to collect all 4 points on the pass.
Gotham took two consecutive team time-outs (one an official review as a time-out) to rest Bonnie Thunders before sending her out in the last jam, her third jam in a row. In that final jam, Thunders grabbed lead after fighting through the Victorian defense, but then got stuck in the pack. In response, Thunder patiently ran out the clock even as Fagdalane added 9 points, ending in a slim 2 point win, with 143-141 for Gotham.
Watch Gotham play in the Championship game at 6pm CST today, while Victoria competes for 3rd place in the 4pm CST game.
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