PORTLAND, OR – In the first semi-final game of the weekend, #1 Gotham battled #5 London in what was essentially a demonstration of will. London showed up with fierce defense and risky offensive footwork to keep the game much closer than their previous match up (June 25, 149-118). Gotham, the five-time World Champions, appeared to either be demonstrating uncharacteristic chinks in their armor, or that their competitors did their homework in how to handle the perennial favorites, as London (and earlier, Angel City) took the team right to the wire.
Ultimately, the game was decided with one break-out jam by VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites late in the game, when she posted an 18-0 over London’s Master Blaster – this not only returned the lead to Gotham’s favor, but put enough distance between the teams to put the win just out of reach as the clock wound down.
The first period launched with Gotham fielding Bonnie Thunders against London’s Lexi Lightspeed, who was boxed twice in the same jam while Thunders passed the star to VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites, culminating in a 13-6 start for the team from NY. London had an answer for the notoriously successful Gotham jammer, Bonnie Thunders, and so it wasn’t until her third jam of the game that she earned her first lead jammer status.
Later, in jam 9, Gotham’s Vicious Van GoGo was boxed – but lock-down defense from Brazilian Nut, OMG WTF, Sexy Slaydie and Fast and Luce limited London’s AnDracula to a single scoring pass, leaving the score in Gotham’s favor 42-34. London went on to chip away jam-by-jam to take the lead in jam 14 as a 5-0 by Rogue Runner pushed them to 49-47, in London’s favor.
Most of the period was punctuated by single scoring pass jams, featuring stalwart defense from both teams and smart offensive transitions to finally spring their respective jammers. The half closed with Gotham’s jammer being boxed twice in the same jam, essentially mirroring how London started the game, as Bonnie picked up a high block before passing the star to Caf Fiend, who earned a cutting call. And then a 14-0 run by Master Blaster closed the gap to 80-61, with Gotham leading.
Unsurprisingly, the initial period resulted in equitable stats for each team – lead calls were 10 each, 4 jammer penalties occured each, and almost identical numbers of box trips at 21 for Gotham and 20 for London.
While Gotham appeared content in the back wall – setting up a 4 person defensive unit with the inside and outside blockers flipped – London seemed equally content in their front braced-formation. Neither team gave up much purchase, and all but four jams of the first half were single-digit additions.
With impressive one-on-one blocking to keep opposing jammers in the pack until the last inch, as shown by London’s Kid Block and Juke Boxx and Gotham’s OMG WTF, each team brought the individual talent and cohesion to showcase some genuinely nail-biting roller derby.
The second period started chaotically for the New Yorkers, as London’s Rogue Runner took advantage of a light Gotham pack and boxed jammer to go on a 28-0 run. It proved the largest scoring jam of the game, and one that pushed London back into the lead at 89-80.
This was short-lived, however, as Bonnie answered back with a 14-0 in the next jam, closing the gap to a single point. Gotham’s ShortStop returned the lead to their favor with a 12-0 jam following, over Lexi Lightspeed, resulting in 106-95. Not content to let Gotham run with their lead, London, led by Stefanie Mainey, limited scoring for the next few jams as AnDracula posted 13, and Rogue Runner, Lexi Lightspeed added 5 and 4 more points, respectively.
With four more lead changes over the next ten minutes, it was never clear which team would ultimately take home the chance to play in the final Championship game.
Ultimately, an 18-0 by VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites in jam 36 pushed Gotham into a relatively comfortable lead (for this game, anyway) at 163-147, while Bonnie padded the score further in the next jam with a 9-0. The final jam featured Gotham’s ShortShop getting the needed lead call to run the clock down and trade points with Rogue Runner to close the game and take the win, 189-163.
In this brutal contest, neither team lost any players to foul outs, though Gotham’s Violet Knockout came the closest with 6 trips. Comparatively, London had two players at 5 penalties each – Shaolynn Scarlett and Arocha. Lead calls slightly favored NY at 52% overall, to London’s 45%.
High scorers for Gotham were – unsurprisingly – Bonnie Thunders with 82 points over 16 jams, and ShortStop with 58 points over 10 jams (with an impressive 9 of 10 lead calls). London’s offense was lead by Rogue Runner with 65 points over 10 jams and Master Blaster with 33 points over 8 jams.
Gotham advances to their 5th sequential Championship final at 6 p.m. on Sunday November 6 while London plays for 3rd at 4 p.m.