(ST. LOUIS, MO) Saturday’s season opener for the St. Louis Surge featured new uniforms, new players and new aspirations.
All three were put into play in the women’s professional basketball franchise’s 97-48 victory over Missouri Arch Angels at Harris Stowe State University.
The first two on the aforementioned list are commonplace. All sports teams frequently alter their threads and the complexion of a roster’s line-up switches each season.
The third item on the docket, however, is something completely novel for the 2014 Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL) national champion that finished runner-up last year.
The goal in 2016 is to reclaim the WBCBL trophy.
A 38-point halftime lead set the tone in the Surge’s 2-to-1 ratio triumph and early placement a top the WBCBL’s Midwest Division hierarchy.
“It was all about the energy,” said Surge coach Tony Condra afterwards. “We locked in on defense, but the energy and effort was definitely there.”
“I think we played pretty well for the opener of the season,” reflected veteran guard Rebecca Harris. “We were testing out a couple of things, but overall, I have no complaints.”
The Surge sprinted out to an 8-0 lead that set pace. Launched by Harris’ ten-foot jumper ten seconds in, Jaleesa Butler connected from twelve feet out at the 9:05 mark to push the lead to 4-0. Harris’ lay-in continued the rally and Raven Berry’s pair of free throws finished the opening sequence that gave St. Louis a 8-0 lead with 7:25 left in the quarter.
“From Day One of practice, we’ve been working on playing fast,” said Condra of the Surge’s opening rush. “Get the ball out, transition, lock in and get in. It’s on our game plan from here on out.”
As the quarter progressed, the Surge newcomers made their debuts and quickly delivered. Michala Johnson’s lay-in with 4:45 left stretched the score to 18-4 and she later added a three-foot jumper that extended the lead to 22-6 with 2:40 left.
Denisha Womack contributed four points in the first frames’ final minute, punctuated by a lay-in with :15 left, as the Surge possessed a 28-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
St. Louis started the second with five straight as Bianca Beck’s three-pointer one minute in was followed by Harris’ lay-in off a rebound at the 8:30 mark that widened the score to 33-9.
Up 42-13 midway through the quarter, the Surge mounted a 14-3 run over the next five minutes that was highlighted by a trifecta of three-pointers. Harris’ trey at 5:35 pushed St. Louis’ advantage to 45-13. Late in the Surge’s surge, Womack and newcomer Brittany Wilson hit back-to-back threes and the score blossomed to 56-16 with 1:25 left in the half.
A 30-12 second quarter output gave St. Louis a 58-20 lead at intermission.
In the second half, scoring considerably slowed down as the Surge was fouled often in the third frame. St. Louis notched eight straight from the charity stripe, paced by Shanity James’ half-dozen, to push the Surge’s advantage to 68-25 with 4:45 left in the quarter.
To its credit, the Arch Angels found a little light offensively in the quarter thanks to buckets made by Mia Wesley, Nikki Lawrence, Chanel Ross and Victoria Smith but the game’s overall differential was widening. Heading into the fourth, St. Louis sported a 76-31 edge.
In the final quarter, the Surge’s starting five of Harris, Butler, Beck, Rochel and Berry maintained the pace and pushed the score to 82-39 following Butler’s 12-foot jumper with 5:35 left.
The contest’s final minutes were highlighted by the Surge’s 2016 debutantes that produced a 17-9 finish en route to St. Louis’ 97-48 win. The five fresh faces in the line-up collectively scored 40 of the team’s total points on the evening.
“The new additions fit in just fine with personality, basketball IQ and buying into the program,” Condra assessed.
“I think they are made for us,” added Harris. “Right off the bat, they’re good people and good characters that I like to be around. I look forward to getting to know them better and, hopefully, we’ll be clicking on all cylinders.”
With four players recording double-digits, Harris topped Surge scoring with 21 points followed by Womack’s 14.
St. Louis travels to the Cornhusker State next Saturday and faces the Nebraska Strikers (1-0) in WBCBL Midwest Division play. The Strikers netted a 97-86 win over divisional counterpart Iowa Force last night.
Missouri Arch Angels, paced by Cierra Morgan’s nine points, travels to Iowa next Saturday as both teams seek their first win of the season.
ST. LOUIS SURGE (97): Rebecca Harris 21, Denisha Womack 14, Leah Cotton 12, Jaleesa Butler 10, Brittany Wilson 9, Michala Johnson 8, Bianca Beck 6, Shanity James 6, Cassie Rochel 5, Jenny Rocha 3, Raven Berry 2.