It was a little bit of history in the making this Saturday at the Bunker as the Smoke City Betties defeated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls 128-98 in ToRD’s 2013 semifinal. It will be the first time that the Betties play for the championship since 2009, and will mark the first time in league history that the Gores will not contend for the boot, ending a truly remarkable six-year run. It was a fast, low scoring, high intensity game—arguably the best game in the league this season—that the Gores controlled early, but the Betties stuck around and showed a consistency that had been lacking all season and eventually wrestled away control and held on for the thrilling 30-point victory.
These teams took two very different paths on the road to the championship, with the Betties limping in to the playoffs after going a disappointing 1-2 on the season that included a massive 265-62 loss to the Death Track Dolls to end the regular season. The Gores, on the other hand, crushed Chicks Ahoy! to close out the season, putting up a record setting 323 points in the process. But all year the rebuilt Gores seemed to be playing well above expectation, ignoring the pre-season predictions of their demise, yet in the semifinals they seemed, at times, to be the inexperienced team many thought that they would be with such a new lineup. The Betties entered the season with high hopes that were quickly quelled by inconsistent performances that seemed to put a strain on the young team. At one point it didn’t look as if they’d be able to pull themselves out of it.
The Gores are usually strong openers (they were only caught off guard on the opening whistle against the Death Track Dolls this season), and burst out of this one, catching a seemingly unprepared Betties team. 8-0 after the opening jam, the Gores took five of the first six lead jammer statuses to open up an impressive 21-0 lead, and over the opening ten minutes seemed in complete control of the game. The Gores, at this point, called a time out to talk things over, an intriguing move that would come back to haunt them later. In the immediate aftermath of the time out though, the Betties began to wake up.
Riding a string of three straight lead jammer pick ups, the Betties got on the board and started rolling. The first half was very clean in terms of penalties with both teams running into brief streaks of pack-penalty troubles, but the fact that there were (refreshingly!) no power jams made the game move quickly and kept the scoring down. With ten minutes remaining in the half, the Betties had fought back and a 26-8 run had them within 3 points. The Betties earned seven of the final ten lead jammers to flip the board on the Gores and lead 63-40 at half.
More importantly for the Betties was that it felt like they were in control emotionally and on the track. The Gores were often scrambling in the pack while the Betties saw season-best individual performances from usual stalwart Misery Mae, but also got a massive game from Platinum Bomb who had been out since the season opener and put in one of the stronger performances of her four-year career. The Betties played easily their best game defensively, and held the league’s leading scorer, Lexi Con, to just 4 points in the first half.
For the Gores, Foxy Sinatra was once again phenomenal (in the pack as usual, but she was also a strong performer with the star and finished second in team scoring with 21 points), and seemed to elevate her play in the absence of injured team captain Santa Muerte. With Lexi Con neutralized in the first and Taranosaurus Rex in the second (no points in the second after 16 in the first), third-year jammer R.I. Pink stepped up and played what was arguably the game of her career and was the only jammer able to gain any consistency against the Betties’ packs putting up 17 points in the first half and 15 in the second to lead the team. The games leading scorer was the Betties’ Wolverina with 40 (she’s been on a tear since the Beast of the East), but they spread things around with four jammers registering at least 19 points.
The first power jam of the game came on the fourth jam of the second half: on it, the Betties picked up 12 points to build their biggest lead, 80-51. At this point, the Gores found their form and played their best stretch of derby of the bout, matching the Betties in points and lead jammers (and on two jams, the teams traded jammer penalties to negate power jams). Arguably, the turning point came at the midway point of the second: with the Gores rallying and within 16 (96-80), they earned a lead jammer status only to get smacked with a jammer cutting penalty to send the Betties on a 13-point power jam. They grasped the momentum and after a scrambly two-minute jam, took the next three leads to build an insurmountable 124-87 lead.
As to be expected, the Gores fought tooth and nail to the very end, and actually managed to pick up the final four lead jammer statuses, but over that span only managed 11 points (to the Betties’ 4) and on the final jam, simply ran out of time—and with no time outs remaining (they used their final one with about 10 minutes to go) could do little more than wait for official word.
The Smoke City Betties will now meet the Death Track Dolls in Battle for the Boot 7: The 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Championship on June 15th, a match that will crown a first-time champion regardless of who wins.
D-VAS DEFEAT SOUTH SIMCOE 200-142
The semifinal was prefaced by a showdown featuring ToRD’s farm team, the D-VAS (in their first public game of the season), hosting the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers in what was an entertaining (though penalty filled) game featuring a surprisingly high-level of play from both teams. The Rebel Rollers came out strong before the D-VAS roared back to hold on to an 81-72 point lead at the half. They led all the way through the second half to take the 58 point win.
The D-VAS were led by some strong play in the pack including getting a massive game from pivot Eskimo Jo, and strong performances from Honey Boom Boom and Hannibelle among many others. With the star, Lumberjack Flash was virtually unstoppable, Sneaky Dee got stronger as the game went on and Wackedher had a particularly strong second half. South Simcoe got strong play in the pack especially from Painkiller Jane and Psycho Magnet, and used a wide rotation of jammers led by the untiring Brand-Her. All in all, it was an impressive performance from both of these young teams.
***ToRD’s Battle for the Boot 7 will be on June 15th at the Bunker. Doors open at 5 PM with Torono Junior Rolller Derby playing a mini-scrimmage at 6 PM at the championship game slated to stared at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a variety of vendors in the city.