Saturday afternoon did not bring the celebration and joy the St. Louis Surge had hoped. St. Louis entered the GWBA Championship weekend with visions of greatness and victory. Instead, they find themselves heading home from Wisconsin a one-and-done after a heart-breaking 104-83 loss at the hands of the Flint Monarchs.
Much like last week, the Monarchs wasted no time at the start, grabbing the game’s first lead on a 3-pointer following an offensive board. The Surge quickly punched back with a beautiful stepback mid-range jumper out of the pick-and-roll from GWBA MVP Rebecca Harris. Harris then got to the line on the next trip down the floor and gave the Surge their first lead at 4-3. Flint then began to assert itself, consistently building a lead that stood at five in a 23-18 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Surge began the second quarter by shaving away at their deficit with a 3 from Nici Gilday. Gilday immediately followed up with a layup, as the Surge continued to run. By the 7:49 mark, the Flint lead had all but vanished, as the score stood at 27-25 Monarchs. But then Flint got hot, threatening the blow the game wide open. Flint’s Crystal Bradford caught fire, amassing 16 points with 4:15 remaining in the half. Her scoring explosion enabled Flint to build its biggest lead of the game, a 10-point advantage with 3:30 to play. The deficit hitting double digits undoubtedly awakened the Surge, though. Mikala McGhee promptly connected on a 3, which was followed up by a Harris layup, so when the first half came to a close, the Surge trailed just 41-36.
Halftime was no match for the Surge’s momentum, as they emerged from the break hot as ever. Gilday opened the half’s scoring with a steal and run out to earn a trip to the line. St. Louis kept scoring, punctuated by Kristi Bellock on a big putbacks and Harris on a tough layup through contact to give her 13 points for the game and cut the deficit to two at 45-43 with 7:21 to go, when Flint called time to slow the Surge. Like halftime, the timeout did nothing to slow the Surge, as St. Louis quickly tied the game on a Harris 3. Gilday truly erupted late in the quarter, scoring 7 points in about three minutes, bringing her game-leading scoring total to 22. Yet, Gilday’s dominance wasn’t enough to stop the Monarchs, who built a 63-58 advantage by quarter’s end.
As the fourth and final frame opened, everything began to rapidly unravel for the Surge. In the blink of an eye, the Flint lead had swelled to double digits, and it kept growing, as the Monarchs got transition run out after run out. Bradford maintained her utterly nuclear scoring output, extending the Flint lead over 20 with a 3-pointer at the 6:30 mark. By the time she checked out, Bradford had turned in a legendary performance with 41 points.
For the Surge, 2019 was a trying a season. Improved competition, roster turnover, and simple bad luck doomed this year’s pursuit of the GWBA Championship. Heading into 2020, the team has a lot of growing to do to strike back with renewed energy against the Monarchs and championship favorite Wisconsin GLO. There were positive signs, however. Harris is still a superstar, who captured league MVP honors in the team’s first season in the GWBA. Gilday, in her first season with the Surge, emerged as a genuine game-changing star. It will be a long and difficult offseason, but the Surge have the building blocks to create a championship group.