Historically, the annual post-season national tournament for the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League contains perpetual shifts.
Case in point, the WBCBL’s current defending champion, Georgia Soul, no longer exists as a franchise.
One minute, hoist the trophy. Next minute, poof!
Even with that instability, there has been one constant in the league’s last four post-season finales.
The St. Louis Surge has played in the WBCBL trophy game.
Winner of the 2014 and 2016 titles, the local hoopsters have the opportunity to extend that streak this weekend and potentially become the most-decorated champion in the governing body’s 13-year history.
St. Louis competes in the eight-team, single-elimination tourney beginning Saturday at Charlotte (NC) Latin School. The third-seeded Surge faces sixth-seeded Virginia Lady Warriors in 10 a.m. Eastern quarterfinal.
St. Louis (9-2) gained automatic entry to the bracket with their 94-59 victory over Midwest Flyers Elite two weekends ago at Washington University. The full-throttled triumph marked the squad’s fifth straight win.
“What makes us good is our dedication to the sport,” said Surge forward Brittany Carter. “We all love it so much. We don’t spend just our practice time working on our games. This is our love and this is our passion.”
The key to success for the Surge this season, and reason for optimism for a third WBCBL keepsake, has been a deep roster propelled by a potent offense that averaged 98 points per game.
Four players recorded double-digit portfolios, paced by veteran guard Rebecca Harris’ 24.9 points per game. Carter (20.5 PPG) topped the team in three-pointers made (25) while forwards Jaleesa Butler (14.1 PPG) and Kristi Bellock (13.3 PPG) also contributed high numbers.
Consistency was commonplace with newcomers Jordan Jones, Mariah King, Laura Johnston and Kelsey McClure as each averaged seven points per game.
On defensive side, Lehti Lerma, Bianca Lathom, Sherise Williams and Taylor Robinson gave fits to the opposition and played pivotal roles in key situations.
“Most teams do not have the depth that we have,” said Carter. “If we get a few people who are in foul trouble or are tired, we have that back-up that can come in and contribute right off the bat. We don’t need to take a break.”
The complete charter will be put to the test immediately in Saturday morning’s tourney opener.
Sixth-seeded Virginia Lady Warriors (5-3) clinched the WBCBL East Coast Division (4-0) and makes their second straight trip to the national championship. Last season, they fell in the quarterfinals to aforementioned Georgia Soul so advancement to the Final Four this weekend creates a new team benchmark.
Many starters from last year’s squad returned to the fold including 5-10 guard Dashera Boone (14.5 PPG), 5-9 guard LaToya Taylor (10 PPG) and six-foot center Brittney Thorpe (10 PPG).
Rookie forward Siobhan Beslow (11 PPG) also had a breakthrough season for the squad that averaged 80 points per game. That may seem a little low but in all their divisional games this year they held their opponents to under sixty points in each contest.
The winner of the Surge/Warriors contest will face the winner of the #2 Dallas Diesel vs. #7 Phoenix Elite quarterfinal in a semifinal match-up later that night.
The WBCBL title game takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern and the possibility for the Surge to be the first “three-time” champion is not out of reach.
“We have worked so hard that we have to go all the way,” said Carter.
Find out more about the Surge by visiting their official website.
Arch City Media will have a recap of the Surge’s weekend posted Sunday evening.
Here is a look at the other six teams competing this weekend (listed by seed):
(1) Atlanta Monarchs (11-1) –Newly minted this season, the Monarchs steamrolled to the top spot of the WBCBL Atlantic Division and also finished undefeated against WBCBL Suncoast teams. Lone set-back was a 98-81 June road setback to St. Louis which resulted in a split between the pair.
Atlanta possesses an extremely powerful offense that averages over 90 points per contest. A quartet of former WNBA players, paced by three-point specialists Meighan Simmons and Sydney Wallace, each average over 15 points per game. On paper, quarterfinal match-up against eighth-seeded Riviera Beach might be determined by first quarter’s conclusion. Title game is projected for the rookie franchise and it very well could be the Monarch/Surge rubber match.
(2) Dallas Diesel (8-0) – It’s the third straight tourney trip for Texans that finished atop the WBCBL Mid South (5-0). Numerous veterans, including 6-4 forward Layla Shwartz-McCray, 6-3 center Jasmine Johnson and six-footer Jill Duffey, leads an offense that averages ninety points per contest.
There’s too much firepower for their quarterfinal opponent, seventh-seeded Phoenix, to contain and, as a result, a Saturday night semifinal against St. Louis is projected. With a three-game sweep, the Diesel will steer their way to a first-ever championship.
(4) Detroit Dodgers (6-0) – The only other undefeated team in the mix is the third-year franchise that won the WBCBL North East. The Dodgers make their inaugural Champs debut thanks to a stubborn defense that held opponents to under sixty points on average. Nothing overwhelming offensively, with only a pair of players that averaged double digits. That’s okay for this group because they are more of a defensive workhorse.
That makes the side-by-side seeded quarterfinal against Carolina a bit of a head-scratcher. It might be a low scoring affair, but that actually suits the Dodgers. It they claim the duke, they more than likely meet top-seeded Atlanta, to which Motown will more than likely be shut-down. Nevertheless, this is the weekend to just enjoy the moment of making the big dance.
(5) Carolina Lady Rush (10-4) – Conversely, if there was a team that could play the role of spoiler this weekend, it just might be the fifth seed that comes in with a four-game winning streak that includes a WBCBL Carolinas upset over defending division champ, and 2015 national titlist, Charlotte two weekends ago. The Lady Rush finished the Carolinas 6-1 and only fell to top-seeded Atlanta by eight points in an early July inter-divisional game.
Optimism is high with leading scorer Loreal Gamble (14.4 PPG) and three-point specialist Monique Hudson (11.5 PPG) pacing an offense that averages 85 points a contest. If they curb pesky Detroit in the opening round, they get the projected re-match against Atlanta later that night. It’s not an impossible feat to slay the top seed and the odds look better with the momentum they possess.
(7) Phoenix Lady Elite 1’s (5-5) – After spending their first four seasons in Toronto, the Lady Elite 1’s moved operations to Arizona in 2017. This marks the first appearance for the squad, who easily topped the Las Vegas Gems, 104-73, in a WBCBL West Coast Division finale held in early July. Backcourt is lethal as guard Kailie Quinn tops scoring with a 16.8 average while compatriot Briana Gray averages 13 per contest.
First round opponent is a familiar foe in second-seeded Dallas, who have already handed the Lady Elite 1’s a pair of losses in the ledger. The key to success for Phoenix is to take, and make, selective shots from the field, especially since they sacrifice considerable height in the paint. Patience is also imperative as they can’t afford to get into a shootout with the Diesel since it didn’t work the other two times.
(8) Riviera Beach Heatwave (2-5) – Considering that this team was winless heading into July, one can see how the eighth seed is just happy to be appearing here. The WBCBL Suncoast rep have claimed back-to-back wins to make the tourney, which included a nifty 75-67 win over division rival Orlando two weekends ago.
Forward Sharneka McCatty paces the offense with an 18-point average. Quarterfinal match-up against top-seeded Atlanta is probably going to end how one would assume. Nonetheless, this is the weekend that raises Riviera Beach’s WBCBL IQ just by appearance alone.
Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League
National Championships – Charlotte, North Carolina
SATURDAY (All Times Eastern)
10 AM – (3) St. Louis vs. (6) Virginia
12 PM – (2) Dallas vs. (7) Phoenix
2 PM – (1) Atlanta vs. (8) Riviera Beach
4 PM – (4) Detroit vs. (5) Carolina
6 PM – St. Louis/Virginia winner vs. Dallas/Phoenix winner
8 PM – Atlanta/Riviera Beach winner vs. Detroit/Carolina winner
1 PM – WBCBL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME