by Greg Starks
The Philadelphia Reign silenced any doubters in their 81-74 victory over the Atlanta Monarchs, who are the defending WBDA champions. Early on in the first quarter, the Reign dominated the battle on the boards, with both teams playing at a high tempo. As soon as there was a defensive rebound, both Atlanta and Philly were looking to score in transition.
The Monarchs shooters got great looks early in the game, but they just weren’t connecting. Philly’s offense woke up and gained a comfortable lead on Atlanta. The Monarchs defense did not allow the Reign to pull away from a single-digit lead.
In the middle of the first quarter, it appeared that a spark was lit in the Monarchs players. Their defense began to shut down Philly’s offense, and Atlanta’s shooters started to capitalize on all the open looks they got. The Reign became cold from the perimeter. To counter this problem, Philly decided to try and score in the paint.
Momentum began to go over to Philly’s side, and they jumped out to an eight-point lead. At the end of the first quarter, the Reign managed to push their lead into double digits with the score being 29-18.
Toward the end of the first quarter, the Reign’s shooters got on a hot streak, and it seemed as if they couldn’t miss from deep. They carried that into the second quarter, as Philly knocked down a couple of three-pointers to start the quarter. Atlanta began to take all the shots the Reign wanted them to take, as the Monarchs became cold from the field.
With about six minutes left in the first half, it was noticeably evident that Philly started to become complacent with their lead. The Reign turned the ball over on multiple possessions and took bad shots. This allowed Atlanta to fight their way back into the game.
Atlanta played a 2-3 zone defense, and the Reign couldn’t seem to figure out a way to counter with their offense. All the momentum was on the Monarchs’ side. Philly gifted Atlanta plenty of second-chance baskets, as the Reign struggled to grab defensive rebounds that would have allowed them to get out and score in transition. Going into halftime, the Reign were up by only four points on the Monarchs, with the score at 46-42.
During the break, Coach Davis-Cain of the Reign told her team to “‘just continue being poised, don’t get tired and don’t get sloppy.’ We had a couple of possessions there at the end where we didn’t play good defense, we didn’t box out and they capitalized on it.
“I told them that this team is not going to lay down, so when we get up on a lead, we got to keep going and not let up. When we let up, this is what happens, and it’s going to be a four-point game.”
The third quarter was underway, and it was still evident that the Reign was having problems with defensive rebounds. Atlanta scored many of their points off of second-chance points.
It was a back-and-forth struggle between both teams in terms of who had the momentum, which seemed to change with every possession. Turnovers were problematic for the Reign, as they could never string together any long runs to help them pull away.
At the end of the third, it was clear that this game was going to go down to the wire, as the Reign held only a two-point lead over the Monarchs, with the score being 64-62. Philly amped up their intensity on defense in the fourth quarter, as they forced Atlanta into an abundance of bad turnovers which killed the Monarchs’ momentum.
Once again, it seemed that Philly was now about to finally pull away for good, but then the Monarchs came down the court and drained a three-pointer that tied the game at 71. In response, Philly came right back down the court and seized the momentum by draining a three-pointer of their own, recapturing the lead.
Fouls were now a problem for Atlanta. Philly got to the free-throw line numerous times down the stretch, which allowed them to hold on to their slight lead. With it now being crunch time in the fourth quarter, Philly started to out-rebound Atlanta, which slowly allowed them to pull away, with the score at 79-71. In the end, Philly was able to prevail and keep their undefeated season alive, winning 81-74.
“It feels good,” Davis-Cain said of solidifying the Reign’s number one ranking in the eastern conference. “We’ve been in the gym working, so it’s nice to see that what we’ve been working on has been paying off, but we still have the second half of the season to go … I’m not happy with just being undefeated right now. I’m trying to get to the national championship and win it all.”