PHILADELPHIA, PA – The BELIEVANCE of the #6-ranked Texas Rollergirls woke up early to take on the legends of the #3 Gotham Girls Roller Derby. The last time these two teams faced off was in June of 2016 at Thin Air Throwdown, where Gotham won by 117 points. They have not met in the post season since Champs 2014.
In a game with eight lead changes, Gotham’s tenacity at Texas’s persistence was more eye-opening at 10AM than a red-eye coffee; Gotham squeaked out the win 148-145.
Gotham put the heat on from the very first whistle, shutting down #03 Olivia Shootin John and drawing a star pass to #16 Aja Gair who cut the track by the end of the first jam. Malmö MVP, #06 ShortStop, took advantage of the power start to put a few points up. Jammer penalties were prevalent in the first half, with Texas sitting down five times, and Gotham earning four jammer penalties.
Momentum swings were aplenty in the first half as well, partially due to blocker penalties gained. Gotham blockers picked up 16 in the first half, and the Texas defenders rotated to the box 14 times which meant packs were often short at the same time. Gotham’s #18 VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites and #68 Sexy Slaydie made life hell for more agile Texas jammers. Hip to hip positional blocking from #22 Poly Gone and #420 StoneHer stalled up Gotham jammers long enough to spring their buddies from the box.
Four lead changes happened in the first half, though any game leads by Texas was not held very long. Gotham’s rotation was able to stop Olivia Shootin’ John, one of the top scorers yesterday, only letting her put up 20 points in the first half. The Texas secret weapon #55 Hauss the Boss was absolutely stuffed in the first half, unable to wiggle through the continuous Gotham defense, and only gained four points in the first 30 minutes.
At halftime, Gotham led 79 to 65.
Penalties lessened in the second half, with Gotham sitting 15 times (3 of them jammer penalties), and Texas only reporting 10 times (1 of them jammer penalty). Interestingly, Texas outscored Gotham in the second half by 11 points despite only gaining lead jammer status 37.5% of the time.
Gotham’s strength is keeping calm under pressure and again in the second half, Gotham was undeterred by momentum swings in Texas’s favor and did not let them lead for long. Texas took advantage of power jams, with Olivia Shootin’ John finding her balance and Freight Train using her leverage to eek out multi-pass jams.
#4500 Bonita Apple Bomb and #17 Fast & Luce broke up star passes from Gravy, Baby! and shrugged off offense like it was nothing. #100 CC Boom and #07 Jackie Daniels were powerful and controlled, which afforded #5 Smarty Pants the chance to be mobile and fluid in offense, recycling, and receiving star passes.
The last jam was electric, as #1706 Miss Tea Maven and Olivia Shootin’ John took the line and both were recycled back into turn four. Maven gained lead about 30 seconds into the jam, but OJ was on her heels. With about 45 seconds on the period clock, Maven knew she could not call the jam until it hit zero and engaged the Texas pack who stopped her, as OJ pulled penalties on the Gotham blockers. With most of Gotham in the box, she was able to accrue a four-point pass, a Grand slam, and then another four-point pass. As she approached again, Maven called it off with no time left, and despite never exiting the pack on her one scoring pass, she still had scored all four points.
As the points went up on the elevated center court display of the Liacouras Center, it was Gotham on top by three points, 148-145. The stunned silence of Texas fans was followed by an explosion of emotion from the various Gotham cheering sections.
Both teams played extremely smart, and were able to bait line work from the jammers to knock them out of bounds. Both teams had excellent speed control and edgework. This was a game of small mistakes and tiny gaps that made the difference. This was a game to study moving into the next season, and it is one that shows that the playing field is leveling in the world of roller derby.
Gotham moves into the semifinals Saturday night at 8PM EDT against the #2 Rose City Rollers. Texas will grace the sport court one more time at 12PM EST on Sunday against the #16 Minnesota RollerGirls.
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