PHILADELPHIA, PA – What has usually been the final Champs game for two years became the final game in the day on Saturday instead, in Philly. Gotham had some wounds to lick, and asses to kick, as they entered the game, while Rose had a burgeoning legacy of their own to defend with some key players out of the loop. This was destined to be a tense game of killer moves and tight point scoring, and the resulting play didn’t disappoint.
In the end, the more recent of the championship claims won out, and Gotham wore the weight of their losses, caving to Rose City’s gameplay. The Wheels of Justice earned a position in the final day’s Championship fight with a #1 spot and a Hydra to claim with a win of 159-113.
Miss Tea Maven got the first lead status and a 5-0 score against Mutch to put Gotham into the first game lead, and each added a few points next. Then Brute claimed lead against Miss Tea Maven, and an unreplied 10-point jam left a 13-7 game in Rose City’s hands.
A revved-up crowd seemed to catch feeling on the track, as the pack started to race and jammers kept high beam cruise control on full right up to the pack, with Gotham eked out a 2-0 addition. The pack jostled and kept up speed into the next, with each set of blockers ricocheting off one another and barely noticing the jammers. Continuing with scrappy packs, Giles took the 9th minute of play to add three grand slams against an unscoring Frisky Biscuits, taking Gotham into what seemed to be a firm lead claim.
As the game progressed, an engaged audience shifted forwards in their seats as if in unison, and Gotham crept up points inching, with the pack staying speedy and scrappy. The first game quarter crawled towards its end with Gotham still maintaining their narrow lead, until Bonnie Thunders got a jam lead against her former team, and snuck through on a power jam to push Rose City up by 10 points and taking the lead back 33-28.
As each set of blockers competed to see who could most effectively break up the other wall, the two opposing lines kept recycling and hustling to come together and split the other apart, with the jammers as almost a secondary consideration. Then some persistent lead jam claims started to set Rose’s fortunes for the better.
With just 9 minutes remaining in the period, Giles grabbed a lead jammer status and used her own blockers to touch and bounce up the inside line to grab more and more points. 14-0 later, Hannah Jennings and Gal Of Fray had clearly decided her time was done, trapping her at the rear and refusing to allow her another yard until the jam ending whistle came up, but she’d already quietly snuck a further 4 points in. That 18-0 took the teams to a tensely drawn 48-48, with a breathless stadium surrounding them.
As a breath of silence spread across the space, Bonnie Thunders bounded out of the pack ahead of Shortstop and after a single grand slam, her call-off was foiled by a penalty call that sent her, clapping, to the box. At this point, it was clear that Rose City wasn’t going to be able to score while she was off track, and they doubled down on enclosing ShortStop to ensure Gotham wouldn’t either. That point kill left an otherwise troubling jam that included an unexpected power jam at a mere 9-4 addition, and Rose City’s lead was set.
With Miss Tea Maven trapped in the front, and Elicia Nisbet-Smith goated at the rear, the canny blocker took a staggering hit off the track and suddenly discovered a loose elbow pad she needed to adjust, keeping the Gotham blockers focused on her return instead of engaging with Miss Tea’s captors. A penultimate jam later, Mutch claimed 10 unreplied points for Rose City, confirming their lead at a widening 70-53. Even a lead status by Giles immediately after couldn’t do more than 4 points of damage, leaving Rose City ahead at what appeared to be halftime, 70-57.
A rapid official review call left just enough time on the clock to hand the teams another jam, and this time Mutch took lead and jam control, with a key offensive assist from Rivas tunneling her way into a 6-0 addition, as Gotham’s jammer was halted entirely by the remaining Rose City blockers. The actual halftime score was 76-57, to Rose City.
As the first whistle went for the second period, both teams jostled and competed to catch the other off-guard, but Mutch was the winner of that tussle, with 3-0 to prove it. The next was a repeat in reverse fortunes, as ShortStop took lead jammer and started adding points as Gotham shook up the pack to their advantage. 14-0 later, Bonnie Thunders returned to the bench scoreless, and Gotham had narrowed their deficit to a mere 8 points.
As Giles sat and handed off a power jam to Brute, the two teams seemed to realize in unison on the track that calming play down was going to work for both of them. They seemed to take a breath together, before bringing it down a notch and settled in. But the very next jam went back to the scrappy ricocheting play they’d both been bringing to this half, and Violet Knockout went down hard seconds before the whistle went, proving its cost.
In the meantime, two Rose City lead jammer claims in a row pushed up points for Rose City, and 8 minutes back into play they were continuing to widen their lead to take the century mark and surpass it, with Gotham still trailing over 30 points behind. With the widest point spread of the game under their belt, Rose City might have started to breathe easy, but that was never really their style.
At this point, Rose City decided that their usual careful, grinding braced walls and circulating tripods were their way to play, and if the game was headed their way, they would claim it. Even Gotham’s best interjections couldn’t dissuade them, and Mutch found inner and outer lane edges to test and take advantage of for 10-4 and a widening game lead for Rose.
The slowed play increased time for jammer pack exits to almost 1:30 in the following jams, leading to point inching, and dogged jammer play. Gotham, never previously much of a team for star passes, started to get some practice in. Rose City’s ability to take back their favorite kind of play started to show in the score, with some larger scoring passes starting to mount the differential. With 12 minutes left in play, Rose City was up at 146-85.
The following jams included some slow points additions on both sides, but there were few changes in play and no lead shift. With 5:30 remaining in the game, a 6-0 claim by Bonnie Thunders drew some direct jammer engagement from V-Diva, but the differential maintained.
Gotham’s play at this point started to get wilder, while Rose City hardened their calm control. With the spread hitting 50 points between the two teams and under three minutes remaining in play, Gotham’s tactics seemed unlikely to win out. By the time ShortStop made a brash lead claim and swirled through the pack for 4-0, the final seconds were starting to hit. Even Giles’ best attempts couldn’t prevent Brute from claiming a lead jammer status that she was clearly being told to use her hold of the jam elapse as game minutes ran out, even as she got trapped in the pack on her return.
The final score of 159-113 for Rose City proved that their key player losses weren’t key enough to stop them from locking Gotham out of the final Championship game on Sunday. This would be the first time since 2010 that the team has not made it through to that final game of Champs. Catch the team play for third place instead at 4PM EST, on Sunday against Denver.
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