This was it. The end of the dynasty.
The Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars had a great run: three consecutive WFTDA world titles (four overall), 55 straight wins without a loss, and a rightful place in derby annals as the best team to play the game.
But on Sunday night at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Tennessee, the Rose City Rollers' Wheels of Justice were about to wrap things up, shock the world, and take the Hydra trophy back to Portland.
As track officials reviewed a track cut call on Rose City's Scald Eagle, the scoreboard read 144-132 in favor of the Oregonians. 1:42 was left on the clock, and when you're talking 12 points with teams this good, it can be a matter of seconds for a lead to disappear or increase.
Fate seemed to be on Rose City's side though. After trailing for much of the first 30 minutes but staying close enough to give the New Yorkers a cause for concern, they took a lead late in the half and kept it through the intermission, only to see Bonnie Thunders rip through their defense for 29 points.
Bonnie maneuvers around formidable Rose City blockers. Phot by Tyler Shaw
Gotham was now up 87-64, and fans of the defending champs began to exhale, expecting the team what they normally do once ahead by 20 or more: pull away. They did it to Texas in Saturday's quarterfinals, breaking open a close 125-117 game to score the last 38 points of the bout. London was game but outmatched later that day in the semifinals, losing to GGRD by a score of 280-94.
Rose City was different though. Seen by most observers as the second best team in the sport to Gotham throughout 2014, it was fitting that the top two teams in derby met for the world championship. And as a legitimate challenger to the crown, Rose may have fallen behind by 23, and then 37 points, but behind tournament MVP Loren Mutch, they were about to roar back.
Four jams after Thunders' point barrage, Mutch outscored Suzy Hotrod 18-0 to pull her team within 20 again, and three jams later, a 10 point run made it 106-96 Gotham. The defenses went on to slug it out, not letting any point go without a fight, yet Rose City would chip away, eventually tying the game at 123 with a little over six minutes left.
Gotham couldn't lose, right? Not now. But what happens when a team tears through all opposition, getting tested every now and again, but not consistently enough to make dealing with adversity a habit? This is a team that hasn't lost a game since November of 2010. It's great being the hammer, but what happens when you're the nail?
Tournament MVP Loren Mutch slides between Slaydie and OMG. Photo by Manish Gosalia
Breaking back into the lead thanks to Suzy's four-point jam, Gotham found themselves behind the eight ball once again in the next jam, as Mutch put her team up 131-127 with 3:46 left.
Hard. Smart. Together.
Everything Gotham had worked on and worked for was going to be tested, but Rose City wouldn't wilt. Scald Eagle made it 144-132, and as the officials huddled and decided that the subsequent track cut call on Eagle would stand, Gotham strode out to their positions for one last chance.
Bonnie Thunders wore the jammer star, as you knew she would. In a matter of seconds, she had to not just break through the pack, but get lead jammer status and then score enough points to give her team a lead before Eagle returned from the box and began her own scoring pass.
Thunders and her blockers did their job. The 12-point deficit turned into a three-point lead. By the time Eagle got back on the track, it was too late. Thunders called off the jam. Gotham wins 147-144.
Five world titles, four consecutive championships, and a new hashtag for the New Yorkers.
The All Stars bring home the Hydra. Photo by Sean Hale
GOTHAM vs. ROSE CITY STATS
Leading Gotham Scorers
Bonnie Thunders – 75 points (19 jams)
Vicious Van GoGo – 37 points (8 jams)
Suzy Hotrod – 30 points (12 jams)
Leading Gotham Blockers
Sexy Slaydie – 26 jams (+7)
OMG WTF – 25 jams (+9)
Mick Swagger – 25 jams (0)
Leading Rose City Scorers
Loren Mutch – 73 points (15 jams)
Scald Eagle – 48 points (16 jams)
Licker*N*Split – 23 points (11 jams)
Leading Rose City Blockers
Shaina Serelson – 26 jams (-1)
Jessica Rivas – 25 jams (-24)
Jessica Chestnut – 23 jams (-24)
Minutes in Box: 42 Jammer Box Trips: 5
Rose City Penalties
Minutes in Box: 31 Jammer Box Trips: 5
Written by: Thomas Gerbasi