By Thomas Gerbasi / Additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard
After shocking the Gotham Girls Roller Derby faithful by taking their first Golden Skate trophy since 2010 and breaking an eight-year championship drought last August, it would have been understandable if the Bronx Gridlock had an emotional letdown in the 2019 home opener on March 9 at John Jay College in NYC.
And maybe they did as they fell behind by 19 points at halftime to perennial contenders Queens of Pain. But with a second half surge both offensively and defensively, the Gridlock successfully began the defense of their crown with a 173-156 win.
“When we learned that Queens was our first opponent, we were actually really happy about it,” said Bronx captain Fast and Luce. “We were really happy to get a chance to do the game over and prove ourselves again. We had a one-win one-loss relationship with Queens last season, and I wanted to double down and make it really clear that that was not an accident that we won that game.”
It was no accident, but beating Queens is no easy feat, either, as evidenced by a big 17-point jam by Team MVP Stephinity and Beyond that put the ladies in black up 28-12 early. Queens would stretch that lead out to 26 points (52-26) on the wheels of Suzy Hotrod’s eight-point run eight jams later, and while the Bronx always stayed within striking range, they just couldn’t put together the scoring run to get past Queens’ vaunted defense.
Yet by the sixth jam of the second half, Bronx MVP The Smacktivist announced their arrival to Gotham in style with a 16-point jam that pulled the Gridlock even with Queens 101-101 and gave the newcomer a taste of derby life in the Big Apple.
“I came from Ohio, and I skated with the Ohio Roller Girls starting in 2011, and we didn't have home teams, so I didn't know what to expect for a home team game,” said The Smacktivist. “I didn't know what it would look like, or how it would feel. Everyone in the league [Gotham] always says things like home teams are really competitive. I knew it would definitely be a really grueling game. It's definitely an intense matchup, more than I think I've seen with other leagues that have home teams.”
It would get more an intense as the teams traded the lead twice more, with Bronx eventually holding on to the advantage, even surviving a late run by Queens.
“I think that the big difference maker was that we lost focus in the beginning of the second half,” said Queens captain Livvie Smalls.“We got a lot of penalties, which was something that we'd been able to keep in control for the first half. So we had a lot less people on the track,we got more jammer penalties and they played really effective offense and were able to capitalize on those moments. Even though we were able to bring that fight back and really get back into the game, it wasn't quite enough at that point.”
But knowing Queens, this isn’t the last we’ll hear of them in 2019. As for the Gridlock, let the reign truly begin.
QUEENS vs. BRONX STATS
1 2 F
Queens MVP – Stephinity and Beyond!
Bronx MVP – The Smacktivist
Leading Queens Scorers
Beauty Andie Beast 63 points (18 jams)
Stephinity and Beyond! 49 points (15 jams)
Suzy Hotrod 37 points (15 jams)
Leading Queens Blockers
Pinky Swears 23 jams (-13)
Livvie Smalls 21 jams (+13)
Muffin Topless 18 jams (-25)
Ana Bollocks 18 jams (-44)
Leading Bronx Scorers
Kate Sera Sera 84 points (21 jams)
The Smacktivist 77 points (22 jams)
Big Banger 12 points (3 jams)
Leading Bronx Blockers
Fast and Luce 26 jams (+39)
Cherry Napalm 22 jams (-28)
Bunny McBones 18 jams (-16)