(CREVE COUER, MO) The St. Louis Surge, defending national champions of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL), cleared a major hurdle this weekend in its quest of back-to-back titles with a two-game sweep at the Mid-West Division tournament held at Missouri Baptist University Saturday.
Paced by multiple rallies in the tourney’s finale, St. Louis claimed the Mid-West trophy with a 96-60 victory over the Nebraska Strikers.
The 36-point title triumph, combined with an 89-52 semifinal topper over Missouri Arch Angels earlier in the day, improved the Surge’s record to 9-1 in the WBCBL and 10-1 overall.
St. Louis now advances to the eight-team WBCBL National Championships, held August 1-2 in Greenville, South Carolina. Brackets for the tournament will be released shortly.
“I liked how the weekend came together,” assessed Surge coach Tony Condra of Saturday’s double win. “I think we’re on the right track going into Nationals. The chemistry is on and off the floor right now, which is a good thing.”
That chemistry is important considering that there was limited time for veterans and newcomers to blend together prior to the Surge’s regular season and its inevitable defending trophy trek to the Palmetto State in two weeks.
“We don’t have long to mesh like that,” said Surge guard Brittany Carter. “Like a normal team, we only have three months to play and, maybe before that, only a few weeks to prepare to play. I think we’ve really meshed together in this small period of time.”
All things intertwined together Saturday night for St. Louis…and they grabbed an early advantage.
Tied 7-7 three minutes in, the Surge’s stubborn defense forced a turnover, resulting in Brittany Carter’s lay-up with 6:40 left in the first quarter that gave St. Louis a 9-7 edge. Another steal on Nebraska’s next possession resulted in Rebecca Harris’ 12-foot jumper that pushed the advantage to 11-7.
The Strikers’ Shanita Arnold hit a three-pointer with 5:40 left to whittle the gap to one point, 11-10, but the Surge collected nine points straight over the next four minutes. A two-point floater from Jaleesa Butler, a two-foot glass-kisser from Raven Berry, a trey from Leah Cotton and a deuce from Harris pushed St. Louis’ lead to 20-10 with thirty seconds left in the quarter.
The Surge possessed a 23-13 lead at the end of the first quarter and an 8-0 rally began the second frame.
After Brianna Puni converted free throws to make the margin a dozen points, Cotton’s lay-up with 8:30 left in the second pushed the lead to 27-13. Carter’s lay-in seconds later and Puni’s seven-foot jumper finished the eight-point run, resulting in a 31-13 advantage with 7:35 left in the half.
Nebraska, the tourney’s second seed that had advanced to the trophy battle following its 92-90 semifinal win earlier in the day over the Illinois Shooting Stars, collected points, narrowed the gap and only trailed 46-31 at intermission.
The Surge, however, staved the opposition’s late-half surge and posted another 8-0 run to begin the third quarter. Carter hit a three-pointer at the 9:15 mark to push the score to 49-31. Berry’s lay-up and Butler’s trey with 7:15 left widened St. Louis’ lead to 54-31.
Another Surge roll ensued later in the frame. Up 63-42 with 3:45 left in the third quarter, eleven straight were scored by the locals. Carter’s second three-pointer of the night with 3:30 left pushed the lead to 66-42. Cotton connected with a eight-foot jumper one minute later and then converted on a pair of free throws with 2:00 left that gave St. Louis a 70-42 lead.
Puni hit a two-foot floater fifteen seconds later to give the Surge a 30-point lead, 72-42. Then on the ensuing Nebraska inbounds, the Surge swarmed, forced a turnover, and Butler easily banked two off the glass that finished the coffin-nailer that gave St. Louis a 74-42 lead with 1:30 left in the quarter.
Leading 74-43 heading into the final frame, the Surge hit numerous three-pointers to secure victory. Treys from Harris, Carter and Cotton helped St. Louis outscore Nebraska, 22-17, in the fourth quarter to propel St. Louis to the 96-60 victory that advanced the Surge to the WBCBL Championship bracket the first weekend of August.
“This team is just as enthusiastic as last year,” said Butler, who finished with 14 points.
Six Surge players scored double-digits in the Mid-West championship win. Carter posted 21 points while Berry and Cotton each recorded 15.
INDIVIDUAL SCORING VS. NEBRASKA
ST. LOUIS SURGE (96): Brittany Carter 21, Raven Berry 15, Leah Cotton 15, Jaleesa Butler 14, Rebecca Harris 14, Brianna Puni 10, Cassie Rochel 4, Yelani Rosado 3.
In the Surge’s Mid-West semifinal game earlier in the day, St. Louis’ 29-6 advantage after the first quarter propelled its 89-52 victory over fourth-seeded Missouri Arch Angels. Harris’ 17 points, all scored in the first quarter, paced the team’s ledger and the guard collected a “double-double” with ten rebounds in the contest. All eleven Surge players scored in the semifinal.
INDIVIDUAL SCORING VS. MISSOURI ARCH ANGELS
ST. LOUIS SURGE (89): Rebecca Harris 17, Brittany Carter 12, Raven Berry 9, Leah Cotton 9, Brianna Puni 8, Devonna Smith 7, Jaleesa Butler 7, Bianca Beck 6, Cassie Rochel 6, Yelani Rosado 6, Gabrielle Green 2.
The Surge concludes its 2015 home campaign this Saturday with a hard-court finale against the Michigan Flint Monarchs at UMSL’s Mark Twain Building. The Monarchs (3-0) are the Women’s American Basketball Association (WABA) 2014 National Champions and the exhibition features a rare opportunity to witness a pair of defending national champs competing head-to-head. (We’ll have a preview later this week at archcitysports.com).
Tickets for the game, promoted by the Surge as “Ignite STL Night,” are $8 for adults while students, either college or high school with ID, are $5. Children five and under get in free as well as youth teams sporting their team’s jerseys.
For more information on the St. Louis Surge, go to stlsurgebasketball.com.