What a Win! What a Season! What a Great Team of Young Women!
What can you say? There were dozens of folks in the stands of English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park, with their heads down and up.. down to watch the ACC Championship being played in Greensboro, and co-incidentally the Hokies playing Charlotte 49ers (North Carolina theme going big time) playing in a potential sweep baseball game. It was hard to tell what was more exciting, but the buzz kept going around as the game streamed in 20 or 30 different hands and phones were passed around for families and friends to check. There were the occasional ‘oohs’ and ‘darns’ and ‘yeses’ issuing forth when nothing was going on for the baseball game. That was because of scheduling insanity the Sunday game’s starting pitch was at one and the ACC Championship tipoff was, too. The miracle of technology allowed dedicated Hokie women’s basketball fans to attend both games, and wow what a game everyone had in their hands!
Big Thing Mentions
Congratulations have to be dealt out to lots of amazing folks for this one, and I’m leaving the baseball diamond to talk strictly basketball, I promise. There are a whole bunch of first in this game.
The most important was that this was the first Virginia Tech Hokie Women’s Basketball ACC Championship, ever!
The biggest dub yet pic.twitter.com/NYxYDWkSTg— Virginia Tech Women's Basketball (@HokiesWBB) March 5, 2023
The next was that a certain Point Guard has made Hokie History and maybe a touch at the Hokie Hall of Fame. Georgia Amoore was named MVP for the entire tournament, and we’ll explain why in the stats block.
The guy who glued all of this together and the staff that he leads who found all of these wonderful athletes needs a real mention here. Kenny Brooks was sort of discounted six years ago. He was mild mannered, a dedicated husband and father, and the basketball intelligencia seemed to write him off as taking over a middle of the road program.
The first couple of seasons were not disappointing, but they weren’t stellar, either. Few people saw what Brooks was doing behind the scenes, though. He was building a recruiting base, working the transfer portal and the high schools looking for fresh faces and talent looking for an opportunity to play. His methods proved to be more successful than anyone’s wildest imagination could throw out.
He’s found and cultivated star athletes, and now, after steady growth, the 2022 and 2023 Hokies have finally claimed their rightful place in, not only the conversation, but the winner’s circle. Here’s hoping that Head Coach Kenny Brooks chooses to retire a very old and gray man in Blacksburg among the Hokies who love and respect him. Thanks, and Congratulations Kenny Brooks!
BTW - to the ACC Coach of the Year Selection Committee... There are more progams than UNC, Duke, and Notre Dame. Maybe you should remember that. Kenny Brooks is the real ACC Head Coach of the Year!
Time for the Game Summary
It wasn’t going to be pretty from the first tip. Louisville came spoiling for a real fight and were out to hand the Hokies more than a tough time. Liz Kitley started the scoring for the Hokies and the game by dropping in a 2-pointer with just a few seconds of the clock having ticked away. A few exchanges and misses had the Hokies in front for a bit, and then Louisville passed them with a three making the score 7-6 at the 6:43 mark. There was a deep intake of air from some of the folks watching the stream on their phones. The next several minutes settled into a back and forth one bucket difference exchange. At 3:28 of the first quarter, Kayana Traylor nailed a three-pointer and Tech pulled ahead of the Cardinals for a brief few seconds. They tied it up 14 all at the 2:42 mark, and that was as close as Louisville would get to a lead the remainder of the game. Tech would add 7 points to that 14 for the quarter, closing it with a shot from downtown by none other than Georgia Amoore. The Hokies went to their bench for the quarter break with a 7-point lead (21-14).
The 2nd quarter was tough and tight, but the Hokies managed to keep Louisville from making any sort of run at retaking the lead or closing the gap too much. As the half ended Georgia was sinking more shots. She was working the charity stripe (4 points) and shaking free for one just inside the arc and a clean 3. Liz Kitley would score 4 from the free-throw line, and D’asia Gregg would grab two. In all the Hokies piled up 10 foul shots in the 2nd quarter. That reality was making a huge difference in the game. At two points in the late seconds of the quarter Tech had a 13-point lead, and the halftime buzzer sounded with the Cardinals getting no closer than the 10-point difference showing on the scoreboard as the teams went to their locker rooms; 38-28.
The Second Half Scoring Started with a Foul Shot
The reality that one minute into the 2nd half, the first point was scored from the free-throw line by the Hokies. Taylor Soule missed her first shot but connected with the second. Tech edged out to a 13-point lead, but Louisville managed to nibble that back on the back and forth. The Cardinals made some noises like they were going to go on a run, with Tech having some difficulties getting the ball to drain. That got halted before it got too difficult to handle and Tech managed to get some points put back up for every point the Cardinals would score for the remainder of the quarter. The big itch came in the final 1:30 or so seconds of the 3rd when Louisville looked like they were finally getting a negative differential trend as the Hokies had a bit of a struggle in the last minute as the lead went from a breathable 11 to a less comfortable 7, and the Cardinals looked like they were grabbing a bit of momentum. The 3rd quarter buzzer sounded, and Tech still had a lead, but it was a three-possession swap and that’s not an ideal against a high scoring squad like the Cardinals.
The 4th Quarter is Always the Determining Period at the Championship Level
You have to hand it to this team, this year. In previous years there would be this kind of pressure late, and the team would start losing the handle on the ball, losing focus, and making critical mistakes. Not this Virginia Tech Hokie team, and not this season. Right out of the gate, Kayana Traylor drained a basket from downtown to stretch the lead back to double digits at 10. Amoore popped in another 2 from short range, and then after another Louisville miss, Taylor Soule followed G with a 2 of her own. With 7:50 on the clock, the Hokies found themselves up by 14, and Louisville seemed to be taking near desperation shots. They were sometimes hitting, but the Cardinals weren’t successfully stopping the Hokies from scoring in return. Amoore would stretch the lead to 15 points with her final three pointer of the evening, and Louisville was staring at a clock versus point capability problem. They had 15 points to make up in 3 minutes against a team that was playing stingy defense the entire game. The 4th was riddled with really heavy pressing and some sketchy non-foul calls by the referees including one on Louisville against D Mo (an obvious uncalled flagrant foul which hurt her and had her leave the court)
There is absolutely zero way this isn’t an automatic ejection flagrant 2, and a suspension. How is this allowed to happen?— Cassell Guard (@CassellGuardVT) March 6, 2023
But as the fouls by the Cardinals built up (they ended the game with 24), the free throw shooting of the Hokies buttoned down and sealed the win. Louisville never got closer than 6 points (67-73) with 28 ticks on the clock and nothing much left but fouls. Liz Kitley buried the final two foul shots of the game and there was just not the time to do much more than heave up the ball from three-point range a few times (all three missed). The Hokies didn’t need to pile in getting fouls called on them. The contest was over and the trophy and an automatic bid to the Beeg Shew was in the bag. The Cassell Guard exploded (they were there in force for this one) the confetti fell, and the Hokies are the ACC Champions for 2022/2023! FIRST TIME, EVER!!!
@HokiesWBB won its first ever @ACCWBB Championship with a 75-67 win over the Louisville Cardinals!— Evan Hughes (@EvanKHughes) March 5, 2023
Hear how the final seconds sounded on the Virginia Tech Sports Network from @LearfieldAudio.#Hokies pic.twitter.com/svnEDOvv9Z
This was another defensive ball game, much to the chagrin of the high scoring Louisville Lady Cardinals. The Hokies dedicated players to defense. They screened out and blanket covered the Louisville star players, with Cayla King and Kayana Traylor playing critical roles in keeping the ball out of Louisville’s hands with defensive rebounds. So, let’s take a trip through how good the Hokies were, today.
You see that right, Georgia is the top scorer, again, today. G played all 40 minutes, pumped in a total of 25 points, four rebounds and four assists. Now, the interesting stat line of the Amoore enterprise for the championship game was that she wasn’t really hitting well from the floor. Louisville was literally punishing her with heavy pressure, double teams, and physical screen outs. What that did was generate fouls and send G to the foul line. She was absolutely perfect. Georgia made 10 of 10 foul shots which accounted for more than the difference in the game. It was a clinic in foul shooting under pressure. Georgia did sink 3 from downtown, and three from inside, but her foul shooting accounted for nearly half of her point total. That’s just impressive.
This team is a balance of talents, and those talents pivot on the 8-to-12-foot turnaround jumper and big reach rebounding of Liz Kitley. Her performance over the season and over the tournament is not eclipsed by Georgia Amoore’s, it’s enhanced. These two are magic together. The friendship is deep and obvious, but the playing balance is there to go along with it. This afternoon, Liz Kitley cemented her future Hokie HOF status, and certainly contributed in a monster way to the Hokies’ first ever ACC Championship. Liz scored a paltry 20 points (/sarc off) and grabbed 5 boards. She was 8 of 9 from the charity stripe, and even slipped in 2 blocks to make sure Louisville knew who the queen of the inside was.
The wish remains. I wish that Taylor Soule had been here three years ago. I wish that she’d have more years of eligibility. But with this year, this performance, and this championship all is forgiven for BC being a pain in the past. Taylor Soule, from now on is all Hokie. She put in 13 (6 of 8 from the floor) points, 5 boards, an assist, and a steal. She’s fearless and made sure that every minute of her 29 minutes on the floor counted.
Kayana Traylor, Cayla King, and D’asia Gregg
DEFENSE!!! DEFENSE!!! DEFENSE!!! There needs to be a shout out to these three Hokies because they didn’t score some magic double-digit points, they prevented them. There is this player on the Cardinals, she’s their star shooter and big point scorer. Hailey Van Lith was held to 4 of 17 from the floor and that included being only 1 of 5 from three-point range. First, she only got 17 clear shots, but second, she only made a few. Though in double digits it was nowhere near enough to affect the Cardinal scoring totals. That was all due to the players guarding her and keeping her out of any kind of quality shooting positions. KT put up 9 points, all from downtown. She also grabbed 6 total rebounds (1 OREB, 5 DREB) and dished out four assists. She was also critical to getting the ball past the heavy press that Louisville was putting on. Cayla King led the team in rebounds with 7 total (1 OREB, 6 DREB), 2 assists and a steal. She only took three shots from the field sinking one and drained her two free throws. D’asia Gregg played 21 minutes (would have been more if not for that uncalled flagrant foul) she also put in 4 points, 3 rebounds, and a steal. It was clear from their shot totals that Cayla and D Mo were not there to put up shots. They were there to shut down shots from Louisville and that they did with aplomb.
What Else Can You Say at This Point?
The 2022/2023 Virginia Tech Hokies have made Virginia Tech athletic history, and I really don’t think that this team is done. The NCAA Tournament seeding discussion will be going on, this week. The team will be back in Blacksburg by the time this is published, and they need some time to rest and ice down the bruises from these three games.