(ST. LOUIS, MO) For the 1,000 in attendance at the St. Louis Surge’s home finale at UMSL Saturday, they certainly got their money’s worth…and then some.
Tied 78-78 after regulation, the Surge utilized a 9-3 overtime frame to pick up an 87-81 victory over the Flint (MI) Monarchs.
As projected, the exhibition match-up between St. Louis, the defending champions of the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball Association (WBCBL), and Flint, holders of the same distinction within the Women’s American Basketball Association (WABA), provided plenty of heart-stopping moments throughout. Nine lead changes during regulation propelled the narrative.
“This was a great match-up between champions and it lived up to expectations,” said Surge forward Rebecca Harris of the six-point win that pushed the team’s overall record to 10-1. “We liked that they came in and brought it to us. We expected nothing less.”
The ensuing donnybrook between the two hard court queen pins was the perfect primer for the Surge’s trek to the WBCBL National Championships next weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. St. Louis, seeded third in the bracketed field of eight, meets sixth-seeded San Antonio in the quarterfinals this Saturday.
“This just prepared us for what’s in store,” assessed Harris. “It provided a great opportunity for us to practice and see that we’re about to see. It wasn’t a pretty game, but it was a battle. That’s what we needed.”
Prior to the opening tip, the numbers overwhelmingly favored St. Louis as the Surge brought a roster of eleven while the Monarchs only fielded six.
However, the visiting empresses brought plenty of firepower and came close to slaying the Surge’s 12-game home winning streak at UMSL’s Mark Twain Building.
Trailing 6-5 two minutes in, St. Louis churned a 7-0 rally to grab the early advantage. Brittany Carter’s scoreboard-flipping three-pointer at the 7:15 mark, followed by buckets from Jaleesa Butler and Carter on the next two possessions, gave the Surge a 12-6 edge with 4:45 left in the first quarter.
The score stretched to 17-10 following Carter’s second three pointer of the quarter at the 3:05 mark but Flint’s 5-0 run, punctuated by Trenia Barbee’s 10-foot jumper with 2:00 left, narrowed the Surge’s lead to 17-15.
St. Louis’ Gabriella Green connected with a three-foot put back off the glass deep in the quarter to give the Surge a 19-15 lead at the conclusion of the first stanza.
Flint whittled away at the deficit to start the second quarter and regained the lead two minutes in as Barbee’s five-foot swisher resulted in a 22-21 scoreboard flip.
After both teams traded buckets on their ensuing possessions, which pushed Flint’s lead to 24-23 at the 7:30 mark, the Surge posted six points uncontested over the next minute. Harris’ eight-foot jumper, Cassie Rochel’s lay-up and Leah Cotton’s five-foot strike gave St. Louis a 29-24 lead with 6:20 left in the half.
Following five minutes of traded points, the Surge’s advantage was pushed to eight with 1:00 left in the frame with Raven Berry’s reverse lay-up that gave the hostesses a 41-33 edge.
The Monarchs countered with a 6-2 run in the final moments as a pair of three-pointers from Jasmine McCall helped narrow the Surge’s lead to 43-39 at halftime.
A 5-0 Surge run to start the third quarter gave the locals its largest lead at that moment. Following Butler’s bucket at the 8:10 mark, St. Louis sported a 48-39 edge.
To its credit, Flint charged back with a 13-6 run over the next five minutes and inevitably sliced the score to 54-52 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.
Harris hit a trey with 2:40 left to push the Surge’s lead to 57-52 but the Monarchs followed with six uncontested. Following Natasha Morris’ lay-up with 1:40 left, Flint manufactured a 58-57 lead change.
St. Louis regained the advantage with one minute left as Carter’s no-look pass to Butler in the paint resulted in an easy lay-up and a 59-58 lead for the Surge that concluded scoring in the third.
Back-to-back St. Louis buckets launched the fourth quarter. Following Harris’ floater with 8:15 left, the Surge sported a five-point lead, 63-58.
The five-point differential was maintained for a good stretch of the final frame. St. Louis held a 73-68 lead with 4:00 remaining following Butler’s two-foot put back.
The Monarchs then proceeded to make its strongest declaration of the evening with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes. Accented by McCall’s three pointer, Flint regained the lead, 76-73, with 2:05 left in the contest.
The Surge countered with back-to-back buckets. Carter’s lay-up at the 1:55 mark whittled the deficit to one point and Harris’ put back with 1:06 remaining gave the Surge a 77-76 lead change.
After both teams came up empty on their next respective possessions, the Surge’s Berry was fouled while shooting with six seconds remaining. She converted the front half of her free throws to give St. Louis a 78-76 lead.
On the ensuing inbounds, the Monarchs raced up the court and McCall forced a shot that tickled twine with three seconds left that tied the score, 78-78.
That would be how the scoreboard read after regulation. The stalemate after forty minutes of competitive play now added an extra frame of five.
“It’s a new ball game,” said Surge coach Tony Condra of the team’s mindset heading into overtime. “Every possession counts.”
Possessions were equal early and the game was tied, 80-80, with 3:40 left in overtime. Defensive pressure ensued from both squads, but the Surge was able to grab an 82-80 lead following Butler’s 10-foot jumper with 1:30 left.
The Monarchs’ Nya Jordan was fouled with :58 remaining and narrowed the game to one point with a converted free throw, 82-81.
The Surge responded with its biggest shot of the night as Butler connected with a three-pointer with :32 left that gave the hostesses an 85-81 lead.
Late free throws made off of Monarch fouls helped St. Louis outscore Flint, 9-3, in overtime to collect the 87-81 victory that pushed the team’s overall record to 10-1.
Four Surge players scored double-digits, paced by Butler’s 25 points.
Harris, who finished with 16 in the ledger, felt that the gut check helped Surge prepare for Saturday’s national tournament launch. Three straight wins in Greenville against the WBCBL’s elite will result in back-to-back championships.
“Going into these games, it will be a battle,” she said. “Probably every game. Whether it’s ugly or not, we need to get wins by any means necessary.”
ST. LOUIS SURGE (87): Jaleesa Butler 25, Rebecca Harris 16, Brittany Carter 13, Cassie Rochel 13, Raven Berry 8, Leah Cotton 8, Bianca Beck, Gabriella Green 2.
COMING UP WEDNESDAY AT ARCH CITY SPORTS: The Surge seeks back-to-back titles this weekend and we’ll have an exclusive preview of the 2015 WBCBL National Championships. We’ll hear from the locals, get their take of the upcoming tournament and take an inside look at all eight squads competing.
For more information on the St. Louis Surge, go to stlsurgebasketball.com.