Tell Me About It Because the Hokies “Told” the Vols
This one is hard to write because it’s so exciting and special I can’t get it published fast enough for y’all to read it. This one was special in so many ways. The Virginia Tech Lady Hokies Basketball Program is THERE... There is the Elite Eight of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, and we don’t have much experience with such amazingly good post season things happening, anymore.
It was tough not being there, but I am pretty sure that nearly 100% of Blacksburg was tuned in to something, whether it was ESPN on the TV, or Evan Hughes on the radio, or just watching the scoreboard scroll on some game tracker, somewhere. Hokie Nation sounded like a good number of folks hit the stands in Seattle. Whatever it was, the subspace continuum of Hokie Spirit was propelling the Lady Hokies to further greatness.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN PROGRAM HISTORY VIRGINIA TECH IS ELITE EIGHT BOUND @HOKIESWBB pic.twitter.com/UKqcZzdjz5— ACC Network (@accnetwork) March 26, 2023
When Georgia Scores First, Hokies Win!
The tip-off for the game was nearly 20 minutes late. Maybe that was good because it got the Hokie Nation Subspace Vibe going, but it was probably a bit nerve wracking on the ladies. The game started off a bit slowly with some fumbles and misses.
Look, Tech beat the Lady Vols on December 4th, and the excuse mill started churning... early in the season... missing a key player... still the better team... We heard all of it, and the Hokie victory was sideways because Kitley and Amoore were smothered and Traylor had to lead things for a while. Well, maybe Coach Brooks re-enforced that emotional baggage from the sports media, because once things settled down a bit, the Hokies were having none of it. Virginia Tech knew that they were the better team, and the Volunteers were going to have to prove otherwise.
To drive home the point, Georgia Amoore, after exactly one minute burned off the 1st quarter at a 0-0 tie, and some frustration, drilled a three-pointer, opened the scoring, and Virginia Tech never lost the lead. It was almost the 7-minute mark before the Vols even checked in with a 2. Tech’s defensive effort was putting serious pressure on the Volunteer play structure, forcing bad or high-risk shots, and pulling down boards.
Tennessee wasn’t going away, though. They kept up some level of scoring so that the lone bucket early was joined with some late in the quarter points. Cayla King buried a 3 at the 3:35 mark, and Tech only managed another bucket (2 from Kitley) for the remainder of the quarter. In the meantime Tennessee was nibbling at the exchanges and wearing away that 10-point lead pushed out by King. The first quarter ended with Lady Vols scoring the last points, but Tech had the lead 18-13. What they needed was to get back on offense and grab some momentum.
The Hokies Dropped a 9 Point Lid on the Volunteers in the 2nd
Games are not over in the first half, but building up a big lead can, more often than not, take the wind out of the sails of most teams. Of course, Tennessee isn’t most teams, but the drubbing that the Hokies dished out in the 2nd quarter had to have an effect on the Lady Vols.
Georgia started the quarter off with 2-points for the Hokies, and a real point see-saw started with the Vols scoring and Tech answering, Tech scoring, and the Vols answering. The back and forth lasted until the final 3 and a half minutes of the quarter, when Tech went on a serious tear. Kayana Traylor put up a three. Then Georgia put in a 2, then followed that up with another 3 to close the quarter’s scoring out. The Hokies left the court at the half with a 13-point lead, and more importantly Tennessee staring at a pair of duces on the board. Holding that team to 22 points in a half is a mean feat. Tech was up 35-22 and really looked like they had Tennessee’s number.
The 2nd Half Reintroduced Hokie Nation to Nerves
Who else but Georgia Amoore would score the opening points of the 3rd quarter? The problem was that basked, followed by a layup by Liz Kitley were the only buckets of nearly the first five minutes of the quarter for the Hokies. Luckily the Lady Vols had only narrowed the lead to 13 points, but Tennessee was beginning to get the Hokies to turn the ball over and miss shots. With the lid on, the only thing that was saving Tech was the fact that the Vols were still not generating much offense. When Kitley scored another duce, at the 5:28 mark, Tech managed to break the ice on the bucket, and slowly began to widen the lead a bit. But then, at the 1:14 mark, Tennessee started seeing a comeback in their sights.
Tennessee started winning exchanges as Tech would put up hurried shots, and the Vols would get down the court and put the ball in the hoop. The lead narrowed to 9 points at the buzzer and Tennessee had finally won a quarter 18-14. The Hokies still held the lead, but 9 points is 6 points less comfortable than 15 or 16 that they had been showing. The Lady Vols also ended the quarter with a Tech foul, the final points, and then the first points of the 4th.
One Point! The Lady Vols Got Back That Far
The 4th quarter was going to turn out to be the most nerve wracking, but also the most satisfying. The nerves came from the way the Hokies had serious trouble getting out of a full court heavy press. Frankly, Tennessee was getting away with some serious fouls, and Tech was getting called for some really ticky-tack violations. Later in the game a flagrant ejectable foul was not called and even the announcers were shocked because basically a Tennessee player sucker slapped/punched Taylor Soule from behind. No one called it and no reviews were requested, but it was indicative of the heavy borderline play by Tennessee.
The upshot is that at the 6:10 mark of the 4th quarter, the Volunteers had chomped away at Tech’s lead, and were suddenly within a simple bucket of taking the lead. It was 53-52 Hokies, and they just weren’t scoring enough. Kayana Traylor managed to push the Vols away with an old fashioned three-point play by sinking a basket, inside, and then draining the free throw on the foul. Then the fouls by Tennessee started in earnest. They were in foul trouble for the remainder of the game, and in a penalty situation. Cayla King was fouled on a three-point attempt and made her three shots. Kayana Traylor made a bucket from inside, and then Georgia Amoore was fouled. She made her two shots to push the lead out to 9, and a quick check of the clock showed 3:32 left.
Air Georgia™ pic.twitter.com/ynlGEH7uQv— HokieSports (@hokiesports) March 26, 2023
The Lady Vols were running out of options, opportunities, and luck. The foul game doesn’t work well when you're in a penalty situation, AND the opponent is draining most of those shots from the charity stripe. Almost all of Tech’s scoring between the 3-and-a-half-minute mark and the 1-minute mark was free throws. Then Cayla King drained her final trey of the evening which stiff-armed Tennessee away, and just left too little clock and too many points to make up. Tech took the final inbounds and dribbled the final six seconds away after Coach Brooks called a timeout to allow for a check in and a breath.
HISTORY @HokiesWBB is headed to the Elite Eight for the first time EVER‼️ pic.twitter.com/m6SkSUxfLE— espnW (@espnW) March 26, 2023
Kenny Brooks played a super tight bench the entire game (6 players to be exact). He kept Kitley out for 11 minutes, and only D’asia Gregg came in from the bench as responsibilities shifted around. There were some records put up, and most certainly there were some efforts to highlight, but this team sat squarely on the shoulders of our 5’6” (yeah, right) Australian Point Guard, Georgia Amoore. I want to see the pictures of Victoria, Australia sporting Hokie gear.
G scored the highest point total of her career this game. Amoore was 9 of 21 from the floor, including 4 treys, but more importantly she was 7 of 8 from the charity stripe. She also grabbed 6 boards, 2 steals, and pushed out 5 assists. What’s even more important is that Georgia remained focused, kept the team moving, and spent the entire game on the floor. This was a team (tiny though it might have been with only 6 players on the floor) but that team was quarterbacked by Georgia Amoore.
This tweet was 1 point behind Georgia’s final total.
A career high tonight for @georgia_amoore with 28 points#MarchMadness x @HokiesWBB pic.twitter.com/RSzU2jqsUX— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 26, 2023
KT was big in the December 4th game, and she was big, again for the rematch under much higher-pressure conditions. Traylor’s defense was excellent, and once again she stepped up on offense. She was 6 of 11 from the floor with a trey in there for 14 points. She also dished out 3 assists and grabbed 3 rebounds. KT played nearly the entire game, only sitting out for 2 minutes. It was a big night for her and the Hokies needed it.
3Q ✅ pic.twitter.com/51FinjKYRS— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 26, 2023
***With all the great work from KT, you’d think they’d have tweeted out something better than a billboard.
Drat! Drat! and Double Drat! No double-double for Liz this evening. Well, some of those five “team” rebounds were probably hers and enough to push her over, but who cares? Liz was all about defense this one. And I mean the kind of heavy contact hard push defense that kept the Vols from getting any traction in the paint. Liz’s best play probably was her beautiful assist on a reverse of roles to her roomie and podcast partner Georgia Amoore.
Up and over! @elizabethkitley finds @georgia_amoore in the paint#MarchMadness x @HokiesWBB pic.twitter.com/qxISJMopXV— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 25, 2023
Kitley would end the game with an Elite Eight Tee Shirt (that’s getting expensive, I’m wearing my Sweet 16 as I write this) with 12 points. She only took 14 shots and played 29 minutes. Most of her shots were under blankets of double coverage. She did pull down 8 confirmed boards and that beautiful assist to Georgia. Just a little record note, Kitley scored her 2,000th point this evening.
2K for @elizabethkitley #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/FDLHPqwHnV— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 25, 2023
Cayla King, Taylor Soule, and D’asia Gregg
These players took a grand total of 15 shots, combined. Cayla King hit 2 threes, and 3 of five free throws. But she only put up 7 total shots. King was defense, and that showed up with four rebounds, but she stole the ball three times. Taylor Soule shot even less than Cayla, putting up only five attempts while playing most of the game (32 min.) T-Soule had 7 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists, and a block. She also played on a leg that was clearly bothering her. D’asia Gregg probably was the highest percentage shooter of the game. D Mo put up a grand total of 3 shots and made 2 of them. Gregg had 5 rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
From d3333333p— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 26, 2023
» 31 pic.twitter.com/ICdCrdqD1n
Kenny kept up the strategy of having G, Liz, and KT concentrate on offense, and Cayla, T-Soule, and D Mo do the screening, pressuring, and defending. It worked, but it makes you think that maybe he’s going to have to change that up for the next game.
But that’ll be later... right now...
A Wee Reminder of What the Hokies Just Did
#Hokies | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/87krnuU8o0— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 26, 2023
And Georgia Notifies the Locker Room of Where Tech is Going
Movin’ on #Hokies pic.twitter.com/e2ys21b2or— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 26, 2023
The important part of the “going on” thing is that the Hokies will not be facing the University of Connecticut Lady Huskies. The Hokies will take on the surprise Sweet 16 winner, Ohio State Buckeyes. That’s going to be an interesting contest because the Lady Buckeyes are a defensive team with a heavy full court press that they use often. Tech’s going to have until Monday evening at 9pm to figure out how to beat it.