By Thomas Gerbasi / additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard
Last season, the Bronx Gridlock were the hard luck gang of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, always competitive but still in the position where the primary goal was to break a three-year losing streak. They did that last July, and in the GGRD season opener at John Jay College in NYC, they opened their 2018 campaign with a statement-making 185-136 win over the defending champion Brooklyn Bombshells.
That statement? This ain’t the same Gridlock anymore.
“I think we were just ready,” said Bronx captain Fast and Luce. “Bronx was completely ready to be in that winning position. We've been training for many seasons now to get to that place and we all just came back to the season - even our new people we drafted - with the understanding that we were going to work with a single goal in mind and that was to really dominate the track.”
Mission accomplished, at least on March 17, when they led from whistle to whistle, buoyed by the scoring attack of GGRD All-Star Kate Sera Sera, a member who is rapidly emerging as one of the league’s top jammers.
“I come in expecting to make points with every jam,” said Kate, who logged a game high 101 points. “When you look at [our] defense and what it's been doing throughout — I didn't have any doubt in my mind that the defense was going to hold. We're going to make points. You know we're good at finding where the points are while holding back the others.”
In such a high scoring contest, it’s easy to forget the defensive end of the equation, but the tight-knit defensive unit of the Cabbies was able to limit the high-octane Brooklyn offense when it counted, with only the always-dangerous Miss Tea Maven (99 points) able to find daylight consistently for the Bombshells.
Ultimately, what the game may have come down to was the cohesiveness of the Gridlock, something that was difficult to achieve in recent seasons due to injuries, turnover, and simple bad luck. But it appears that those days are in the past, and it was noticeable to the Bombshells even before the opening whistle.
“You know, it's kind of funny,” said Brooklyn co-captain Lady Fingers. “We anticipated this from having scrimmaged them for the last few months, and we kind of knew it was coming. But even when you know it's coming, they were just very good at it. They were really good at playing their game and playing their strategy. And it leaves the other team sometimes with having to, on the fly, change your strategy because they're really doing a great job playing their game.”
Not surprisingly, the Bombshells fought tooth and nail throughout the bout, keeping it close in the early going as both offenses took some time to get into gear. By halftime, the Gridlock’s lead was only 18 points, but in the second half, they steadily pulled ahead, outscoring their foes in the first 16 jams of the final 30 minutes.
“I have to say we very much try to keep each other focused jam-by-jam and it keeps us moving forward and keeps us from zooming out into a big picture and thinking about things that we don't need worry about,” said Luce. “The margin is not something we want to worry about. We take it jam by jam, reset after every jam, and that, step by step, is how you win a game.”
By the time Brooklyn’s Sweets McBacon outscored Kate 2-0, the die had been cast, as the Bronx now led 162-62. Jams of 23 and 29 points by Maven down the stretch closed the gap slightly, but it was strictly cosmetic, as the Gridlock had already made their point. And as Luce puts it, the best is yet to come.
“We drafted our new people exactly a month ago,” she said. “The amount of work that we've done here is only been a few weeks of practice and that's a completely different thing to prepare a team in three weeks than it is to have two and a half months or three months. There is a lot that we plan on working on and it's just a different type of working.”
BRONX vs. BROOKLYN STATS
1 2 F
Bronx75 110 185
Brooklyn57 79 136
Bronx MVP – Kate Sera Sera
Brooklyn MVP – D.A.R.Y.L.
Leading Bronx Scorers
Kate Sera Sera – 101 points (24 jams)
Sally Handsome – 26 points (3 jams)
Annie Mergency – 22 points (5 jams)
Leading Bronx Blockers
Caf Fiend – 25 jams (-40)
Fast and Luce – 24 jams (-9)
Cherry Napalm – 23 jams (+30)
Leading Brooklyn Scorers
Miss Tea Maven – 99 points (21 jams)
Space Invader – 26 points (14 jams)
Sweets McBacon – 6 points (12 jams)
Leading Brooklyn Blockers
D.A.R.Y.L. – 25 jams (-23)
Lady Fingers – 23 jams (-50)
Gut-Her Punk – 22 jams (-20)
Papierschnitt – 22 jams (-3)
Minutes in Box: 26 Jammer Box Trips: 6
Minutes in Box: 27 Jammer Box Trips: 5
Stats compiled via Rinxter