COLUMBIA, SC – Looking at the stats, it seems clear as to how and why the momentum switched from #9 Ann Arbor to #8 Columbia from the first half to the second; jammer penalties.
Tournament host Columbia gave up seven power jams in the first half, which let Ann Arbor hold the lead at the break, 88-47. The A2D2 Brawlstars went on to struggle with penalties in the second half, but when everyone was on the track, it was a slow moving defensive game on both sides.
Playoff newcomers Ann Arbor proved their presence in this D1 Playoff with strong defensive triangle walls, and a commitment to play offense for their jammers. Averaging 20 blocker penalties per game in the regular season, Ann Arbor’s penalties unraveled in the second half and the QuadSquad took hold of the game and chipped away from then on to take the game by just four points in the final jam, 149-145.
Ann Arbor started out with a quick lead jammer status for Lezzie Arnaz, but she struggled on her scoring pass while Erin N. Carrino went to and from the penalty box twice. After four points, and with a power start, Terror Misu broke open Ann Arbor’s lead with a 20 point jam while Carrino picked up her third jammer penalty in two jams. After that, Columbia’s strong defense continued to shine and held Ann Arbor to only a further 9 points for the next ten minutes, but the Brawlstars still led with 15 minutes left in the half, 33-14.
Do U Juana picked up lead status next, but as both jammers chased down the speeding pack, she tried to pick up quick points instead spinning herself into a track cut. Ann Arbor’s awareness of strategy and pack definition helped Terror Misu rack up grand slams, and so after 24 points they pushed their lead ahead again to 57-17.
Columbia’s jammers often seemed content to just lock in and push on the pack, while jammers Lezzie or Slamuel L. Jackson stayed on their toes and moved the pack back and forth. Ann Arbor had blockers such as Jadzia Smax or Just Wingett set for offense from the beginning of many jams, as well as mid-jam when both packs were at a slow push, but Columbia’s quick recycling still made it tough for Ann Arbor to earn lead. Columbia actually held a 57.9% lead percentage in the first half, but it was really Ann Arbor’s large scoring power jams that put them at such a solid advantage early on.
Michelle O’Bomb Ya was a strong defensive force for Ann Arbor, often heading up the triangular packs and helping brace and rotate onto jammers. Columbia had a strong hold in the pack as well, but their defense was marked with explosive hits by Chuch-Town Bruiser or Rox Ann Stones.
With close to ten minutes left in the half, defense on both sides held back both jammers for nearly the full two minutes, with Columbia’s Erin N. Carrino only getting out of the pack for lead status with four seconds remaining.
Near the end of the first half, Poison Violet took a spot in the pack, since Ann Arbor held a 4:2 pack advantage, while Holly Hunter took the jam line for Columbia. However, she also then took a seat in the penalty box, which aided Terror Misu in adding seven points before she ended the jam with Holly still in the box. Despite the power start for Ann Arbor, Holly Hunter returned to gain lead status and scored 12 points while Slamuel L. Jackson battled through the pack and eventually passed the star.
At the end of the half, Ann Arbor led 88-47, but it seemed evident that Columbia wasn’t going to let the Brawlstars continue to control the game.
From the start of the second half, Columbia seemed energized and prepared to play a smart, strategic game. At the jam start, Poison Violet crowded Lezzie Arnaz on the line, but well timed offense helped Lezzie earn lead status. Violet stashed the star and eventually passed, and, with effective defense by her blockers, the team held Lezzie to just two points.
In the next jam, the jammer problems for Ann Arbor started with Terror Misu, who took a seat twice with two track cuts in one jam. Erin N. Carrino, who had similar problems in the first half, used this time to put up 12 points. Then Do U Juana followed up with a power start, and added 12 more points, but also took a seat in the box twice herself. Terror Misu erased Columbia’s two scoring jams with one huge 24-point jam, but the home crowd already seemed to be growing in excitement as Columbia was finding more opportunity to score.
Things seemed to go back to the normal slow grind as Ann Arbor picked up lead into the next two jams and added four points apiece, bringing the score to 121-71. Two more jammer penalties by Ann Arbor gave Columbia the chance to put up multiple scoring passes and they closed the gamp to 121-98.
After the first 15 minutes of the second half, Columbia was only able to score in power jams, but with points coming in piles, the team were starting to cut down Ann Arbor’s lead.
From here the crowd and the Columbia skaters continued to rally off each other, and the momentum swung for the QuadSquad in a big way. They earned lead status for 11 of the remainnig 13 jams, and if Ann Arbor wasn’t sitting in the box, Columbia was at least picking up a few points.
With Terror Misu becoming penalty prone, and Slamuel L. Jackson sitting for the last quarter of the game, Sonnet Boom (playing her first game with the Brawlstars) and Jadzia Smax helped pick up the slack in their jammer rotation. Blockers also were more penalty prone for Ann Arbor this half, although only totalling 20 for the game compared to Columbia’s 22 in the second half, it was noticeably affecting Ann Arbor’s defensive stride.
With just under five minutes left in the game, Columbia brought the score to just a five point game and Ann Arbor took their last time out.
Do U Juana got out of the pack first in the next jam, but with a back block penalty and given Lezzie Arnaz had already stashed the star, the jam went a full two minutes. Defense locked in on both sides and by the final four whistles, each had picked up five points and Columbia called a timeout with 2:43 on the clock.
Poison Violet only picked up nine points in the first half, but her feet seemed to have really woken up by the second, and by the second to last jam she took the line having already scored 38 more points in the latter half. Squeaking by on the line with a spin, earned lead for Columbia and sped around the track while Jadzia Smax was held up in the pack. Violet tried to jump the apex, but nearly running into Jadzia, had to recycle and ended the jam with four points.
With under two minutes left and Ann Arbor only holding a single point game lead now and their official review, Columbia burned the line-up clock and then took their final time out with only 1:44 on the clock. Next, Poison Violet returned to the jam line against Sonnet Boom, and after picking up lead, Violet attacked the pack to score with control of the game clock. With Sonnet Boom earning her first and most crucial penalty in the game however, Violet just had to safely secure her points and wait for the game clock to end to call off the jam for her team’s win, 149-145.
With their 4-point win, #8 Columbia will take on the #1 seed Rose City in the final game tonight, while Ann Arbor will take on #6 Santa Cruz in the Consolation bracket.