By: Jim Wallin (LFL360.com)
Photos: Joe Petro, Don Montague/LFL PHOTOS
Ontario, Calif. – The Philadelphia Passion captured their second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship in a hard-fought 44-32 victory over the Tampa Breeze as Game MVP Christy Bell (6/6, 115 YDS., 4 TD) excelled before supercharged atmosphere at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The Passion signal-caller helped the Eastern Conference’s number one seed set the tone early, as she connected with WR Stephanie Orji (2 REC., 27 YDS, 2 TD.) on the second play of the opening drive to vault Philadelphia to an early advantage. Two-and-a-half minutes later, the Passion extended the advantage as Marirose Roach (107 TOTAL YDS., 3 TD) plunged into the end zone.
After Tampa’s Liz Gorman forced a Philadelphia safety to make the score 14-2, the Passion countered as Bell hooked up with Whitney Paronish (2 REC., 50 YDS., TD) on a 20-yard touchdown pass to vault the Passion to a 20-2 lead.
In spite of the increasingly long odds, the Breeze did try to rally late in the first half, as quarterback KK Matheny (15/26, 129 YDS., 3 TD) found Courtney Wilder for a 17-yard catch-and-run to cut the deficit. And then, after a Shelltrice Turner (2 ATT., 16 YDS. TD) rush cut the Philadelphia lead to 20-16 with 2:49 remaining in the first half, it appeared as if the Breeze could possibly ride the wave of momentum into a lead and eventual victory.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Roach capped off a 4 play, 35-yard drive with five seconds remaining in the half to enter halftime with a two possession advantage.
The second half proved to be a back-and-forth battle, with both teams trading blows. Tampa engineered an impressive opening half drive, which culminated in a then-clutch 8-yard touchdown highlight-reel reception by Bryn Renda (4 REC., 30 YDS. TD). But Philadelphia responded as Stephanie Orji scored her second of the night, Tampa’s Wilder responded with her second score and Roach finished off the contest with a 35-yard reception to put what ultimately proved to be the final nail in Tampa’s coffin.
Tampa finishes the season at 3-2, with both losses coming to Philadelphia, who hold an all-time undefeated record over the Breeze.
Philadelphia moves on to face the Los Angeles Temptation in what will be a rematch of Lingerie VIII, which saw L.A. emerge victorious by a 26-25 score.
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