PHILADELPHIA, PA – With the battle for the 3rd place medal at stake, Gotham was clearly not looking to turn back time to 2009 – the last time they left WFTDA Championships without a medal. But Denver was aware that their roster held two of the key players that Rose City leveraged the last two years to keep Gotham from the top spot, and was obviously looking to make the most of it.
In the end, the scrappy play and reactionary blocking to ricocheting offensive moves took its toll on both teams. But after a first-half lead from Denver based on jam leads and multiple scoring passes, Gotham took their lessons into the halftime break and applied them wholeheartedly with the result of turning around their fate and claiming a 178-128 win over Denver, to take 3rd place exit and a medal from the tournament.
First jam in, Wilhelm took the jam lead as Miss Tea Maven landed rapidly in the box along with two of her blockers, leaving an almost clear field for Wilhelm to gather a 13-0 power jam and the game lead for Denver.
Frenetic play and racebacks didn’t keep Denver from taking the next two jam leads and add up points while Gotham kept speeding and both teams fragmented the other’s defensive lines. Another 13-0 for Denver put them in an unbroken lead and another lead jam claim and 4-0 for the team left the score at 33-0 with 5 minutes of game play down.
When in the next jam, Giles finally took a lead jammer status for Gotham for the first time, it spelled the first points on the board for the team, and an audience usually skeptical of cheering for the historically repeat winners started to cheer for what was starting to look like the underdog.
But Denver wasn’t about to let that jam unseat them, and replied with a commanding 10-0 that was intended to spell out to Gotham what their intentions were. By the time Gotham replied, 8-0, once again, the differential was still at 31 points between the two teams, and it seemed like that game lead might be insurmountable.
Just prior to the end of the first game quarter, officials took a timeout huddle, and once play recommenced it was closely packed and scrum-like, with blasts of activity and intense focus. Feelings were high both on and off the track. Star stashes and run-throughs started to emerge for Gotham, but still, the lead for Denver kept stretching.
By the time Scald Eagle cruised in with a seemingly unstoppable 16-0 with 11 mins left of play in the half, Denver had seemed to confirm their destiny. Stretched out and waterfalling blocker engagement for Denver lead by Brawn Swanson wasn’t able to stop a turn of fate in the very next jam, as Miss Tea Maven kept dodging and ducking her way into an unreplied 18 point run against the team. Denver responded with an insta-call of an official review, seemingly intended to break the switch in momentum as soon as possible.
Once back, ShortStop grabbed a quick 5-0 to prove that Denver hadn’t made their point. When the following jam resulted in a rapid 2-0 grab from Giles, it seemed like the game might have shifted emphatically. With 4:30 remaining in the half, the score now sat at 90-57, and Denver seemed to be watching a rapidly dwindling differential escape them.
The teams emerged from this with tight, pressing, and solid tripod formations, doggedly refusing to lose a foot of track or release either jammer. Miss Tea Maven finally emerged after 1:17 of jam had elapsed, to take jam lead, but runbacks and further clamp-down weren’t about to let her take more than a single 5-0 pointer with her advantage.
By the time the halftime whistle blew, Gotham had continued their incremental point inching into a 66 point score while holding Denver to 90.
Back into the game, Gotham had visibly learned some lessons from the first half and was back to control their fate. As the 5th minute back ticked in, Giles claimed just enough points to sneak in a lead change, with 91-90, as her team had held down Denver to keep them unscoring to this point.
A quick sneak attack of 3-0 from Denver right after wasn’t about to dissuade Gotham from the game control they’d claimed as ShortStop took jam lead and, visibly flagging, battled through as Denver tried runbacks and tripod lockdowns to slow her. A 16-13 run in Denver’s favor came out of it, but then Space Invader took a surprise jam lead from Scald Eagle as Bonita Apple Bomb made it their mission to shut down Denver’s scoring.
By the time the first ten minutes back in had elapsed, Gotham was starting to make their lead more comfortable with a 109-93 point spread. But Denver was by no means out of the game, as their blockers took advantage of Scald Eagle’s jam lead claim to start speeding and race Gotham out of points even as Eagle blew through for a quick 5-0 addition.
At this point, speedy gameplay resulted in scoring pass trades jam per jam, and the audience’s allegiances seemed to switch again to side with the new underdog – Denver. Denver’s blockers relinquished hold of ShortStop, and let points accumulate against them, which repeated in the next jam. Gotham’s lead started to seem like it might inexorably stretch before the teams.
At this point, Denver started to make full use of star stashes and passes to confound their opposition, but it wasn’t enough to start convincingly adding to the score. And after Gotham ticked up yet another 10-0 in time for the 10 minutes remaining mark, the 147-107 spread seemed like it might be spelling out the inevitable game conclusion.
As each team took each jam anew, Denver then replied with 8-0, and then the teams reset and Scald Eagle grabbed a quick jam lead claiming points which Giles immediately equaled. As tensions rose across a vocal crowd, it started to seem clear that the 31 point differential was by no means insurmountable, and these were the teams that might prove as much.
Back on the track, feelings seemed as vocal and heightened as the audience around them, with big hits and scrappy offensive plays ricocheting skaters across their lanes, jostling them constantly out of position. Each team was playing with heightened feeling and reactionary control, with only the final moments before jammers hit packs creating come-together moments for team blockers.
The final 1:30 of play showed up with the score sitting firmly in Gotham’s favor, at 172-125, and Denver squeezed out jammer Cotten for a fast jam lead and points. But Gotham’s Miss Tea Maven wheedled her way through the pack to come up rapidly behind for a 3-2 addition just barely in Denver’s court. A team time-out for Denver grabbed them one final jam with a mere 33 seconds remaining on the game clock, but despite two final-stretch hits from chasing Denver blockers, ShortStop leapt out into a final jam lead, and took control of the clock and jam to bring a further 4 points for Gotham and the win home.
The final score of 178-128 brings Gotham their much-desired 3rd place departure, commensurate with their WFTDA-ranking, while Denver now leaves the tournament with a 4th place spot, one place above their ranking.