#1 Gotham Denies #4 Texas, 84-76
WOODBRIDGE, CT -- In a bout that easily lived up to the already sky-high expectations, the #1 Gotham Girls Roller Derby had to fight back their stiffest challenge in a year, surviving a second half 38-1 run by #4 Texas Rollergirls and coming back from a 68-51 deficit with 13 minutes to play to stave off the Austin crew by a dramatic final of 84-76.
Coverage of this bout was sponsored by Black Eyed Susan Skate Shop and Roller Warriors. See the full bout video archive, the boutcast liveblog from Justice Feelgood Marshall, Xena Paradox and Slack Kerowhack, and the unofficial box score.
Both teams went back and forth throughout the first half, and the first couple of jams were a pretty good indication of what the evening had in store. Gotham looked like they might be headed for another one of their signature romps when Bonnie Thunders jammed her way to a 10-0 over Bloody Mary and Mary ended the jam in the box - but on the following jam, Texas' defenders Bullet Tooth Tracy and Rice Rocket were very assertive against Suzy Hotrod, helping Bloody Mary take a 9-0 before Hotrod could finally claim lead and call the jam.
That jam was the first incidence of many where Texas had great success handling Hotrod -- they'd keep her shut out on many turns with the star through the night, though the times when she exploded proved to be game-changers.
Texas took the lead back on the 4th jam, 13-10 as Olivia Shootin' John scored a 4-0 over Hotrod, and although they kept the lead over the following 8 jams, that margin never got larger than a mere six points, with a long series of barely-scoring jams inching the totals to Texas 22, Gotham 16 with 11 minutes to play.
Gotham took an increasingly rare big jam at that point, exploiting a power jam over boxed Texas jammer Bloody Mary as Bonnie Thunders slammed twice for a 10-0, making it Gotham 26, Texas 22 ... and then a four-jam sequence bore a remarkable similarity to the previous, as Gotham clung to a lead that bounced from 6 points to just 1 going into the final jam of the half.
Suzy Hotrod hadn't gotten on the board at all for her team until that jam, but she picked an incredibly good moment to do so as she was able to exploit a power jam and put up the biggest jam of the night, a 15-0 that gave Gotham the biggest separation of the game so far at 16 points, 43-27 Gotham at the break.
Texas came back after the break on a wicked tear, though. Gotham got the best of the first jam as Bonnie took a 4-0 with the help of a light pack favoring Gotham, but then it was suddenly, undeniably all Texas. Gotham was only able to muster 1 point over the next 9 jams, while Texas chipped away. They took the lead at 57-48, on a controversial jam that saw Gotham jammer Fisti Cuffs apparently using every ounce of her agility to barely avoid a track cut, but getting boxed at the end of her struggle anyway. Olivia Shootin' John took that opportunity to drop a 9-0.
The girls from Austin continued their run after the lengthy ref conference that followed wrapped up, making it a 38-1 run, pushing their lead to 65-48, and displaying some well-earned confidence with 15:40 to play.
Though Gotham finally got some more points on the board and stopped Texas's seemingly inexorable rise, the 14th jam of the half, with about ten minutes to play, looked like a bad omen for Gotham -- with the score Texas 68, Gotham 53 and Gotham needing a confidence-building jam, their jammer Fisti Cuffs got a crowd-pleasing lead jammer call but then lost her footing coming through a turn and had to call scoreless as the pack re-absorbed her.
But just when Gotham's offense looked spent, they fired back with three critical shutout jams that totally swung the game. It started with Bonnie Thunders taking a 6-0 power jam over Lucille Brawl, and then Texas jammer Bloody Mary emerged from a tangle with a ticket to the penalty box while the Texas defense lost their usual control of Suzy Hotrod, letting her get a 15-0.
Gotham took the lead over there at 74-68, and when Bonnie Thunders got a 10-0 to follow with the help of a fantastic Donna Matrix block on opponent Olivia Shootin' John, it was Gotham 84 Texas 68 with only 3:25 left to play in the bout and it looked like Gotham was just one punch away from the knockout.
But Texas won the next two jams and denied Gotham any more points. They stole a quick 2-0 for Rice Rocket, and then Bloody Mary lapped Bonnie Thunders for a grand slam and booked it for one more point, getting a 6-0 and narrowing the gap to 8 points at 84-76 Gotham with a mere 35 seconds left on the clock.
A timeout ratcheted the drama even higher as Texas jammer Lucille Brawl lined up for the potential game-winning comeback win over Bonnie Thunders, but Texas could not claim the lead jammer call they needed to make the run. Bonnie took lead with no time left on the clock, and immediately killed the jam and the game with a 0-0, preserving a 16 bout Gotham winning streak that looked all but over just ten minutes previous.
See the unofficial box score.
Bonnie Thunders was the only Gotham jammer to have much luck against the Texas crew; she'd put up a very impressive 51 points on 16 jams while taking lead jammer 11 times and outscoring her opponents by 33 points total. The only other real point-producer for Gotham, Suzy Hotrod, was uncharacteristically marginalized; while she did get two huge momentum-swinging 15-0 powerjams at critical moments, she was blanked on 9 of 12 jams. She ended up with 31 total points, 3 lead jam calls and a perfectly even jammer point differential.
The other two Gotham jammers were all but shut down: Barbara Ambush did not score on her 5 jams, got lead once and was outscored by 11 points, while Fisti Cuffs could only get 2 points on her 5 jams, got 1 lead jammer call and was outscored by 14 points.
For Texas, Bloody Mary put the most points on the board with 29 in 12 jams, but was in the box for both of Suzy Hotrod's 15-0 romps, which killed her point differential -- Mary was outscored by 27 points overall while picking up 6 lead jam calls. Olivia Shootin' John rambled for 21 points on 13 jams and 5 lead jam calls, but could only outscore her opponents by a point.
It was Lucille Brawl who was arguably Texas' most effective jammer on the night, putting up 21 points and getting an impressive +15 differential with the help of getting lead jammer on almost every trip to the line -- 8 out of 10. Rice Rocket, usually one of Texas' primary jammers, was used sparingly -- she put up 5 points on 3 jams, pulled lead twice, and outscored her opponents by 3 points.
Texas is next in action on September 6 against Bay Area; Gotham will next be seen at the 2009 Eastern Regionals tournament, kicking off September 11.
Additional reporting: Slack Kerowhack, Xena Paradox
Photos: Megan Moss Freeman