ARCH CITY SPORTS: WINNING EIGHTH STRAIGHT, SURGE TOPS KC AT REGULAR SEASON FINALE
Posted July 20, 2016
Written By: Brian Ledford
(ST. LOUIS, MO) The St. Louis Surge women’s professional basketball franchise put an exclamation point on a successful regular season campaign with its 95-58 victory over Kansas City Majestics Saturday afternoon at UMSL’s Mark Twain Building.
The win netted St. Louis (9-1) its eighth straight triumph and clinched the top seed for the Midwest Division tournament of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL) that takes place next Saturday at UMSL. In the four-team, bracketed set-up, the Surge plays fourth-seeded Iowa Force in a semifinal that tips off at noon.
Although it felt good to win all five of its games held at Mark Twain Building this season, and maintain a unblemished mark (17-0) since its 2014 home opener, the Surge players are fully aware that they must remain grounded mentally heading into the WBCBL post-season.
“It seems like a whole new season for us now,” said Surge guard Rebecca Harris following Saturday’s 37-point win. “Our regular season record means nothing at this point. It’s a whole new ball game so now we have to go back and hit practice hard and work on a few things.”
What certainly worked early was St. Louis’ proficiency from beyond the arc. From the opening tip, Surge forward Jaleesa Butler connected with the first of four three-pointers scored by the locals in the first quarter. Bianca Beck’s trey at the 6:50 mark pushed the Surge’s lead 10-5.
As the frame progressed, back-to-back bombs by Butler and Brittany Wilson resulted in St. Louis’ first double-digit lead of the game, 18-8 with 3:05 left in the first.
Kansas City chipped away at the deficit with its own three-point show in the final minutes and narrowed St. Louis’ advantage to 24-17 at the end of the first quarter.
That momentum carried into the second quarter as the Majestics pestered the Surge and sliced the game to a three-point affair, 32-29 with 5:35 left in the half, following Jasmine Thompson’s three-pointer. St. Louis pushed the score to 36-31 at the 4:30 mark, but Thompson added another trey five seconds later to whittle the Surge’s lead to two points, 36-34.
St. Louis went cold on its next possession and Kansas City possessed an opportunity for a potential lead change, but Wilson’s midcourt steal and ensuing lay-up extended the Surge’s advantage to 38-34 with 3:25 left in the half.
This launched a 12-3 St. Louis rally that concluded the half. Propelled by a pair of three-point rotations from Leah Cotton and Harris’ 13-foot buzzer beater, the Surge went into the locker room sporting a 50-37 advantage.
After Kansas City’s Tyler Anderson collected the opening points of the third quarter, both teams struggled to score, but the Surge inevitably powered-up and collected a 10-1 run over the a three-minute stretch. Launched by Harris’ 10-foot jumper with 7:30 left and finished by James’ lay-in with 4:20 left, St. Louis widened its lead to 60-40.
Although the Majestics tried its best to keep pace, they could never mount a momentum shifter in the third. Butler’s three-pointer with two seconds left for the Surge extended the score to 71-50.
In the fourth quarter, St. Louis claimed back-to-back buckets from James and Bianca Beck that widened the score to 75-50 with 9:10 left.
True to season form, the Surge’s strongest stretch came as the opposition started wearing down and the locals implemented its perpetual bench to provide spark. With 7:00 left, St. Louis churned a 9-0 run with back-to-back collections by Beck, with included a three-pointer, and Michala Johnson’s pair of lay-ins that widened the lead to 86-54 with 4:50 left.
With additional scoring by Wilson, Jenny Rocha, Tori Waldner and defense assisted by Cassie Rochel, Danisha Womack and Raven Berry, the Surge outmuscled Kansas City 24-8 in the fourth quarter en route to the 95-58 home victory and its eight straight win.
“It’s about closing the game out,” said Harris of her team’s dominant output down the stretch. “We always want to finish better than we start. There are times when it can get a little sloppy in the fourth quarter, so our focus is to put it all together no matter who’s out there and just close it out with a good win.”
Six St. Louis players scored double-digits on the afternoon, paced by Butler’s 17, as the squad displayed the depth needed for success heading into the WBCBL post-seeason.
“Any time it could be anyone’s night and we need that,” said Harris, who finished with a dozen. “You never know when you’re going to be counted on, so it’s nice to have that.”
If the Surge wins next Saturday’s WBCBL Midwest noon semifinal, it would face the winner of the Flyers Elite/Nebraska semifinal in the division’s title game later that evening at 7 p.m, where a trophy hoist results in automatic entry to the governing body’s national championship tournament held in San Antonio, Texas the first weekend of August.
St. Louis, the 2014 WBCBL national champs and last season’s runner-up, has sights set on making the Lone Star State trek in a few weeks.
“Our team is built on a championship mentality,” said Harris. “We go to each game trying to prepare the best we can and then win the best we can.”
ST. LOUIS (98): Jaleesa Butler 17, Bianca Beck 12, Rebecca Harris 12, Brittany Wilson 12, Shanity James 11, Leah Cotton 10, Jenny Rocha 7, Tori Waldner 7, Michala Johnson 5, Raven Berry 2, Cassie Rochel 1.
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