D1C: Atlanta Denies London, 184-169

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MILWAUKEE, WI — In the opening battle of the 2013 WFTDA Championships, Atlanta used tight, smart defense and a fairly balanced jammer attack to stubbornly hold off a London side representing the first non-U.S. team to reach Champs. Atlanta led for the entirety of the second half and survived a last-jam scare to triumph 184-169 and advance to a Saturday-morning quarterfinal meeting with Texas.

The game was balanced on more than just the scoreboard — Atlanta had 4 jammer penalties and 29 penalty minutes total, while London had 3 jammer penalties and 28 penalty minutes total.

Bout stats courtesy Rinxter.

The opening two jams were all about defense, as a hard-fought London 2-0 was answered with an equally scrappy 3-0 to Atlanta. Atlanta’s Merchant of Menace took lead on the third jam and the Atlanta bench took a gamble by having Menace keep a guaranteed 4-0 running against Rogue Runner. At first it looked like it was going to work out as Menace picked up a full lap on Rogue, but Menace forearmed her way to the box on the third scoring pass.

Atlanta lost their advantage as Rogue erased the margin, making it 16-15 with Menace still boxed, and Kamikaze Kitten used the rest of the game’s first power jam to take 10 and make it 26-15 London about 8 minutes into the game.

Lady Go-Go pushed it to 30-15 for London next, but Atlanta’s defense stepped up big as Rebel Yellow, Alassin Sane, Wild Cherri and Ozzie Kamikazi repeatedly stuffed Lexi Lightspeed. Lexi was finally forced to pass the star to pivot Stefanie Mainey, but the damage was severe as ATL’s Jammunition ran up a 22-4 jam that put Atlanta back in the lead, 37-34.

Though it was momentarily tied up at 37-37 next, Atlanta nickel-and-dimed up to 43-37 over two jams. On the third, it looked like they’d pull away a bit when Hollicidal took lead over Kamikaze Kitten and dropped a grand slam on her, but Hollicidal found herself boxed on a forearm before starting her second scoring pass. Once again, London made Atlanta pay for the power jam with a big 19-5 win that flipped the lead yet again; London led 56-48 with about 13 minutes in the first half.

It was then London’s turn to play small ball — they took lead on three jams in a row but could only get 3 points out of it. That left London up 59-48 with ten minutes to play in the half. Atlanta finally got their first power jam opportunity of the game there as Lady Go-Go was boxed as London’s jammer and Jammunition landed the biggest differential of the game with a 20-0. Atlanta led again, 68-59, and would never trail again — although the lead was never safe.

Hollicidal used the remaining moments of power jam to take lead, but was a little slow calling off the jam, allowing Lady Go-Go to get points in a 8-4. With the score 76-63 Atlanta, Atlanta called their first timeout with 6:57 left in the first half.

The last stretch of the half was almost perfectly even, as London had gotten only one point closer at 82-70 going into the last two minutes of the half. Atlanta’s Hollicidal had a solid 8-3 win there to push the score to 90-73 with just barely enough time for one more jam in the half. That one didn’t go so hot for Atlanta, though, as a Jammunition track cut left Rogue Runner unopposed. She’d call with the score 0-0 upon finally getting lead, though, leaving London anticipating a power jam to start the second half.

Exceptionally strong defense from Wild Cherri and Scout Snipeher kept Kamikaze Kitten contained to just 5-0 on that power jam. London saw the deficit increase over the next two jams as a back block on London jammer Lady Go-Go allowed Atlanta to pick up 14 unanswered points and make it 104-78.

London continued to have problems rallying against strong Atlanta defense and trailed 122-98 with about 20 minutes to play, but Atlanta got in very serious penalty trouble at that point, momentarily getting reduced to just Wild Cherri on the track and then losing jammer Hollicidal to the box while only Ozzie Kamikazi and Rebel Yellow were available against 4 London blockers. With LRG ace Kamikaze Kitten on the track, that all translated into very good news for London, who put up 19-0 and got her team one pass away at 122-117.

Atlanta refused to fold, though, jealously guarding the small lead to a new score of 133-122 Atlanta with 13 minutes left in the game. The crowd popped big there for a 9-0 from Kamikaze Kitten that made it just a two-point game at 133-131 with 11 minutes left.

The next jam was a huge defensive showcase for both teams as Belle of the Brawl needed almost a full minute to fight through for lead; she’d take 4-0 and make it 137-131 going into the last ten minutes. A 3-0 from Jammunition kept Atlanta’s lead alive at 140-131 with 8 minutes to play, and a big 9-0 from The Merchant of Menace got Atlanta out of the immediate danger zone at 149-131 with 7 minutes left.

London caught a break there when ATL’s jammer Hollicidal incorrectly thought she was sent to the box and sat for a few moments before being brought back on; London picked up 9-2 on that one, but lost it all on the next jam as Lexi Lightspeed was boxed on a cut as London’s jammer. ATL jammer Jammunition picked up 10-0 to make it 161-140 with 4:20 left to play.

Belle of the Brawl made things a lot harder for London with another 10-0 on the back of exceptional Atlanta defense; that made it 171-140 with 2:57 left to play as London called their first timeout.

London went to ace jammer Kamikaze Kitten but yet again, ATL’s defense was up to the task in a jam that saw Merchant of Menace take lead but get reabsorbed in the pack before escaping. That led to a very complicated cat-and-mouse game as Menace smartly capitalized on her lead jammer status to kill critical time, blocking Kamikaze Kitten to the outfield and then recycling her all the way around the track to get both jammers reabsorbed by the pack. The jam ended with a 1-0 win to Kitten, but Atlanta got the overall better of the situation as they were leading 171-141 with barely a minute left to play.

Stefanie Mainey took the star for the first time in the game on what looked like it might be the last jam of the game. She put up a much-needed 9-0 and called it off in time for a London timeout with 18 seconds left on the clock and a 21-point deficit at 171-150. With Kamikaze Kitten lined up to go as London jammer, Atlanta called a timeout of their own before the final jam could start, which caused Kitten to hand the star back to Mainey and don the pivot stripe instead.

Mainey was up against Merchant of Menace in that last frame, and got the lead jammer call to an explosion from the crowd as Shaolynn Scarlett, Kami, Knickerblocker Glory and Olivia Coupe were all over Menace, giving Mainey time to pick up a grand slam before Menace got free and amping the crowd even further. But even with a last-minute star pass from Mainey to Kamikaze Kitten, London was sunk once Menace picked up a couple of scoring passes. The jam ended with Mainey and Kami combining for 19 to Menace’s 13, but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit, giving Atlanta the 184-169 win.

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