St. Louis, who hoisted hardware last season and in 2014, hosts the WBCBL 2017 National Championship Tournament beginning Saturday at Fontbonne University’s Mabee Gymnasium (6800 Wydown Blvd.)
The two-day, eight-team, single-elimination bracketed tournament begins with the first of four Saturday quarterfinal games at 10 am. The top-seeded Surge (10-0) faces eighth-seeded Southern California Splash (5-5) at noon.
Heading into the weekend, the top-seeded Surge certainly displays all the characteristics of a franchise that seeks back-to-back titles and “three-time” status.
Winners of twelve straight dating back to last season’s title run, St. Louis swept all five games in WBCBL Midwest Division play this season and put the exclamation point on an undefeated ten-game regular season with a 116-47 triumph over the Music City Icons at home in mid-July.
At the forefront is an explosive offense paced by veteran Rebecca Harris (18.7 PPG) while three others recorded double-digit averages as returnee Leah Cotton (14.9 PPG) is complimented by rookies Kristi Bellock (13.4 PPG) and Patrice Butler (11.9 PPG).
Veteran Jaleesa Butler and newcomer Krysten Crawford each add a nine-point average while Jordan Jones, Sherise Williams, Leti Lerma, Tori Waldner and Bianca Latham contribute to an attack that recorded triple-digits in seven games this season.
Depth will be a key this weekend as the Surge will push perpetual rotations that will keep players fresh during four quarters of intense play.
Their Saturday quarterfinal opponent, the Southern California Splash, have won two straight heading into the weekend. The WBCBL West Coast rep, newly-christened this season, edged the Oakland Rise, 82-80, two weekends ago for tourney entry and aims to play the role of first-round spoiler.
The Splash features 6-2 forward Casie Johnsonn, 5-11 center DQ Townsend and 5-10 forward Adelina Vanaga and are assisted by guards Shakeena Benton and Jona Fuertes.
The Surge plans to counter that line-up with a stifling defense that has held opponents to under 70 points in seven games this season.
A pair of now-defunct WBCBL franchises has historically recorded “two-time” status, the Conyers Conquers (2005-06) and the Rock County Robins (2010-11).
With a trifecta this weekend, the Surge will achieve “three-time” designation and make their electrified mark as the most successful franchise in the WBCBL’s twelve-year history.
Here is a look at the other six teams competing at this weekend’s tournament (in order of seed):
(2) DALLAS DIESEL (9-0) – The Texans dominated the WBCBL Mid South, compiling a 7-0 division record, and makes a second consecutive trip to the national finale. This squad possesses a line-up that is comparable with the Surge in terms of skill set and depth. 6-4 forward Layla Shwartz-McCray, 6-3 center Jasmine Johnson and six-footer Jill Duffey leads an offense that averages ninety points a contest.
Saturday’s quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Cleveland Crush should, on paper, result in a dominant victory. Meanwhile, a projected semifinal, which would be a newfound benchmark, against third-seeded Georgia is a coin flip. If they reach Sunday’s finale, they have a fighting chance of finishing the season undefeated and claiming their first-ever WBCBL title.
(3) GEORGIA SOUL (12-3) – Arguably the hardest working franchise this season with their 15-game docket, the Soul make their second straight appearance at the WBCBL championships. The Soul’s dominance in the Atlantic Division was highlighted by their 80-78 win over Conyers Rockets on July 22.
Five players average double-digits, paced by guard Breonna O’ Conner’s 17-point clip, while Khadijiah Cave, Eboni Fields and Lacoya Terry also contribute high outputs. Their quarterfinal meeting with sixth-seeded Virginia should be a safe victory, due to their stubborn defense. The projected semifinal barn-burner against second-seeded Dallas is the must-watch game of Saturday night. The Soul have been an active franchise for only two seasons, thus, they have the opportunity to pen the final chapter of a Cinderella story if they claim the trophy this weekend.
(4) CHARLOTTE INVASION (9-3) – The 2015 WBCBL National Champion craves a return to the title game. The Carolinas Division champ bested the Georgia Stampede (99-86) and the Carolina Lady Rush (100-94) in playoff action to earn their third consecutive Champs entry. The fourth-year franchise possesses an eight-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s side-by-side-seeded quarterfinal against Louisiana.
Veteran Jaquaria Forney paces Charlotte scoring with a 23-point-per-game average while guards Jazmine Charles and Cierra York each add an 18-point clip. Kendria Holmes (17.1 PPG) and Nyshia Holmes (11.5 PPG) assist in a lethal offense that averages close to triple-digits per contest. A quarterfinal win Saturday more than likely leads to a semifinal meeting against the Surge, the team they defeated for their inaugural WBCBL title two seasons ago. Revenge could propel a literal round ball invasion as the weekend progresses.
(5) LOUISIANA BAYOU ANGELS (6-1) – The weekend’s third franchise that previously hoisted WBCBL hardware – in this entry’s case, 2012 – claimed the Gulf South Division thanks to a six-game winning streak, topped by their 89-77 victory over the Gulf Coast Tropics on July 22.
With roster stability, the Angels have been a fixture of the WBCBL post-season since their 2012 title campaign. It includes guards Quianna Chaney (20.8 PPG), Olivia Grayson (17.9 PPG) and Roshaundra Barnes (14.1 PPG). Critically, claiming a quarterfinal win over fourth-seeded Charlotte will be difficult based on the Invasion’s edge in strength of schedule, but these wily Cajuns are certainly capable enough to pull off a seedings’ upset if they play smart and clean.
(6) VIRGINIA LADY WARRIORS (8-3) – A newcomer to the championship mix, the two-year old franchise netted a pair of one-point nail biters (79-78 over Maryland and 103-102 over Baltimore) to claim the WBCBL East Coast Division title. That momentum push and boost in confidence will help guide the Lady Warriors in their quarterfinal game against third-seeded Georgia.
5-10 guard Dashera Boone paces the team with her 12.9 points-per-game average. LaToya Taylor and Trinese Fox also netted double-digits in the upset over Baltimore. Also key this weekend is the collective offensive and defensive rebounding of starters Crystal Clay and Brittany Thorpe, who each snared over ten rebounds overall in the divisional trophy game. In their two triumphs at the East Coast tilt, the Lady Warriors sprinted out to an early first quarter lead and that has to be executed this Saturday for a chance at semifinal advancement.
(7) CLEVELAND CRUSH (4-4) – Back in the national championship mix after a year’s absence, Cleveland has confidence on its side after posting back-to-back seeding upsets over Grand Rapids (102-98) and Toledo (79-74) at the WBCBL NorthEast Division tourney in late-July.
Saturday’s quarterfinal against second-seeded Dallas looks really daunting but the Crush are certainly game. Andola Dortch brings a aerial attack beyond the arc while returnees Sir Shawna Dowdy and Britney Walker adds depth. The Crush is extremely small in numbers (seven) so playing clean against the more-seasoned Diesel is paramount.
Tickets are $30 for a weekend pass that covers all tournament games, $20 for a Saturday pass that covers the quarterfinal and semifinal play and $15 that only covers Sunday’s Championship game. Tickets can be purchased either at the door or by going to this link.
For more information on Surge Basketball, go to their official website.
WBCBL 2017 NATIONAL TOURNAMENT
10 AM – (2) Dallas Diesel vs. (7) Cleveland Crush
12 PM – (1) ST. LOUIS SURGE vs. (8) Southern California Splash
2 PM – (3) Georgia Soul vs. (6) Virginia Warriors
4 PM – (4) Charlotte Invasion vs. (5) Louisiana Bayou Angels
6 PM – Semifinals: Dallas/Cleveland winner vs. Georgia/Virginia winner
8 PM – Semifinals: St. Louis/Southern California winner vs. Charlotte/Louisiana winner
2 PM – WBCBL National Championship Game
Arch City Sports will be in attendance this weekend and will have a report posted Sunday night.