(ST. LOUIS, MO) Heading into this weekend’s national championship tournament for the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL), the St. Louis Surge, the defending queens of the hard court, needed three straight wins at Fontbonne University in order to boast back-to-back title reigns.
Unfortunately, it looks like that status will have to take at least two more full seasons to reach that possibility.
Propelled by a late-game rally that flipped the scoreboard, the Georgia Soul topped the Surge, 64-63, in the WBCBL’s finale held at Mabee Gymnasium Sunday afternoon.
The top-seeded Surge (12-1) advanced to the title tilt following Saturday’s quarterfinal forfeit victory over eighth-seeded Southern California and their 85-79 semifinal duke over fourth-seeded Charlotte later that evening.
St. Louis possessed a double-digit lead heading into the final frame but the Soul, the tourney’s third seed, posted a 27-16 fourth quarter to serve the Surge the one-point heart breaker that stunned the vocal, local fan base and, conversely, produced the August, Georgia-based hoopsters (15-3) their first-ever WBCBL national championship.
Georgia’s post-season push was propelled by a 80-60 triumph of second-seeded Dallas Saturday night in the semifinals, but in reality the seeds for ultimate victory were planted twelve months ago.
“Making it to championships this year was a big deal for us because we got eliminated in the opening round in San Antonio last year,” said Georgia’s Lacoya Terry following the win. “Our main goal was to get past the first round, and then we won the second round, so we came into the championship game knowing that we had the edge and we had to fight.”
Surge forward Jaleesa Butler connected with a pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes as the top seed sported a 6-2 edge at the 7:30 mark. Then after a Soul bucket, back-to-back two-pointers from Jordan Jones and Kristi Bellock pushed St. Louis’ lead to 10-4 with 5:50 left in the quarter.
Georgia went on a 6-1 run over the next two minutes and pulled within a solo point, 11-10, with 3:30 left in the quarter following Bree McDonald’s five-foot floater.
St. Louis countered with a 6-0 run with baskets from Bellock, Patrice Butler and Leah Cotton that stretched the locals’ lead to 17-10 with 1:35 left in the quarter.
Georgia scored three points down the stretch and at quarter’s conclusion, the Surge maintain a 17-13 advantage.
After Jones collected the Surge’s first points of the second, a lay-up that made the score 19-13 at the 9:05 mark, St. Louis went uncharacteristically cold offensively over the next three minutes and failed to notch a point. In the process, the Soul chipped away at the deficit, scored four straight and whittled the Surge’s lead to 19-17 with 8:31 left in the frame.
Bellock ended St. Louis’ drought with a lay-up with 6:05 left in the half that made the score 21-17. However, the shooting woes continued as the quarter progressed. Meanwhile, Georgia cobbled a 5-1 run and with Rashay Rawls’ free throw made with 3:35 left, the Soul tied the score 22-22.
St. Louis quelled the scare with a pair of buckets – an offensive rebound from Tori Waldner and a lay-in from Patrice Butler – that pushed the Surge’s lead to 26-22 with 2:00 left in the half.
Georgia collected the final points of the stanza with Ciara Lyon’s pair of converted free-throws made with thirty second left. The Soul’s 11-9 second quarter output made the WBCBL title game a narrow 26-24 lead for the Surge at intermission.
For the half, the Surge shot a rough 31 percent (11-35) from the field and even more eye-opening was the goose egg that team leading scorer Rebecca Harris sported in the stat book.
That narrative changed dramatically in the third quarter as the Surge cobbled an 11-3 run that widened the differential. Harris’ three-foot hook on the first possession made the score 28-24. After the Soul rebounded with Eboni Fields’ three-pointer that sliced the margin to a solo point, St. Louis netted nine straight. Harris’ trey at the 7:45 mark pushed the score to 31-27. Jaleesa Butler added a lay-up with 5:40 left that pushed the Surge’s lead to six.
Harris and Bellock concluded the stretch run with back-to-back buckets as the Surge grabbed the game’s first double-digit lead of the afternoon, 37-27 with 4:50 left in the quarter.
To their credit, Georgia tried to keep pace, but Harris’ play continued to spark the Surge. Her ten-footer with 1:35 left pushed the score to 43-32. Patrice Butler added a three-point bucket one minute later that extended the hosts’ lead to 45-32 and Leti Lerma added a lay-up deep that kept the Soul off patrol.
The Surge’s 21-13 third quarter output, paced by Butler’s 11 points, gave St. Louis a 47-37 lead heading into the season’s final frame and presented the locals a probable chance at their third national championship in the last four seasons.
That margin quickly evaporated as the Soul started the fourth with a 12-3 run and with Tracey Flowers’ lay-up netted at the 6:30 mark, the title game was once again a solo-point affair, 50-49.
Harris anchored a Surge 5-2 run midway through the frame with a pair of buckets made as St. Louis pushed the score to 55-51 with 5:05 left. Then after the Soul sliced the lead in half, the Surge’s Krysten Crawford nailed a three-pointer with 3:30 left that made the score 58-53.
Georgia had upset on their minds and rallied for a 7-2 run in a minute’s span. In a momentum-shifting moment, Terry’s lay-up that went in while being fouled was followed by a converted free throw as the Soul tied the game, 60-60 with 2:30 left on the clock.
“We talked about staying together as a team all season,” said Terry of the Soul’s gut check. “We had to stick together and stay together.”
After being fouled with 2:14 remaining, the Surge’s Lerma hit both free throws to hand St. Louis a 62-60 edge but a running lay-in by the Soul’s Morgan Jennings resulted in a 62-62 stalemate. Lerma hit the front end of a two shot foul with 1:40 left that gave the Surge a 63-62 edge.
Georgia also collected from the charity stripe as center Khadijah Cave successfully converted a two-shot foul with 1:16 left as the Soul gained their first lead of the game 64-63.
Little did anyone know at the time that would conclude the scoring for the game’s final seventy seconds. With possession in hand with :25 seconds remaining, the Surge tried for a last-second come-from-behind victory, but the attempt and ensuing rebound clanked off the side of the hoop…much like the Surge’s quest for back-to-back titles.
The Soul’s 27-16 final frame resulted in the weekend’s third seed claiming their inaugural WBCBL title win with the trophy trifecta that included knocking off the top two seeds successively.
“We had a couple of players (earlier this season) talk about retiring,” chuckled Terry, who led all scorers with 18 points. “Some of us played about four or five years together and some of us were saying, ‘This may be our last season, so let’s go out and fight.’”
Those early plans have all of sudden changed with this Sunday’s success.
“Maybe we have to give it one more run,” Terry said with a smile.
Cave, who picked up weekend MVP honors for stellar defensive play, netted 14 points and 21 rebounds.
Harris’ 16 points, all scored in the second half, paced the Surge, who finished the WBCBL national runner-up for the second time in the past three seasons. Bellock added 12 to finish off her rookie campaign.
Next season, the Surge will find themselves once again donning the role of hunters as they seek to reclaim the WBCBL title.
One can bet that that hunger will be set in place come 2018.
For more information on Surge Basketball, go to their official website.
ST. LOUIS SURGE (63): Harris 16, Bellock 12, J. Butler 8, Lerma 7, P. Butler 6, Cotton 5, Crawford 3, Jones 2, Waldner 2.
GEORGIA SOUL (64): Terry 18, Cave 14, Field 12, Lyons 9, Flowers 4, Montout, McDonald 2, Jennings 2.
SURGE: FG: 26-80 (32.5%), 3FG: 4-27 (14.8%), FT: 7-11 (63.6%)
SOUL: FG: 21-69 (30.4%), 3FG: 5-19 (26.3%), FT: 17-29 (58.6%)
SURGE: OFF REB 19, DEF REB 39, 58 TOTAL
SOUL: OFF REB 17, DEF REB 38, 55 TOTAL
WBCBL 2017 TOURNAMENT RESULTS
(2) DALLAS DIESEL 81 (7) CLEVELAND CRUSH 75
(1) ST. LOUIS SURGE DEF. (8) SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SPLASH – FORFEIT
(3) GEORGIA SOUL 75 (6) VIRGINIA LADY WARRIORS 66
(4) CHARLOTTE INVASION 87 (5) LOUISIANA BAYOU ANGLES 65
(3) GEORGIA SOUL 80 (2) DALLAS DIESEL 60
(1) ST. LOUIS SURGE 85 (4) CHARLOTTE INVASION 79
(3) GEORGIA SOUL 64 (1) ST. LOUIS SURGE 63