First of All, Before I Start: GO HOKIES!!!!
Nobody Likes Losing, BUT Everything Past the Regionals was Gravy
Last night we saw a battle royal, that’s sort of trite, but it is completely true. The LSU Lady Tigers took to the floor in the Jerry Dome, against our Virginia Tech Lady Hokies for a semi-final contest that nobody predicted at the beginning of the season. Yes, the Hokies were ranked 14th, and expected to make the NCAA Tournament, but the accomplishments along the way and after just weren’t on the horizon. Everyone was confident of a bid as a reward for a solid season, and nobody was talking the Final Four for the NCAA Tournament... NOBODY, and don’t lie and say that you were.
For a basketball game, this was a slug fest. LSU was pressing, pushing, shoving, and pressuring Tech at every turn and opportunity. They were forcing bad looks, iffy shot selection, and running hard against a team that is used to finesse, balance between offense and defense, and control. And that choice of tactics ended up being the right one.
The first half ended in the Hokies favor, but it was a 2-point near tie. We aren’t going to go into gory details on this one. Frankly, I don’t have the heart to push those buttons for everyone.
A high-altitude look at the game was that the Hokies came out of the first quarter with a flat start and a serious deficit midway. They started hitting and caught up to LSU a single bucket 3-point disadvantage in the Tigers’ favor. If you look at the play by play you cannot miss the fact that neither team was getting much in the way of consistent defense accomplished, it was all fits and starts, with bursts of offense, and hard runs up and down the court. The one worrisome thing that was dragging at me was looking at the 1st quarter shooting stats, and Tech was only hitting 25% from the court (with a dismal 11% from 3-point range). The Hokies were putting up a whole lot (16 but just not hitting). Meanwhile LSU wasn’t worried about downtown - they tried nothing and concentrated on sinking stuff in close. They pushed nearly 46% from the floor, and you could see a strategy beginning to form.
The Hokies managed a much better second quarter. They were finally hitting critical shots and getting the ball to drop on a few deep ones. They played better defense and hit 56% of their field goal attempts. The better more consistent play pushed the Hokies past the Tigers just before the halftime break. Tech was up by two but seemed to have grabbed some momentum and a clue as to how to handle the Tigers. The concern was that the Tigers were not shooting from downtown, they were taking it to the Hokies on the inside, and the Tech defense was just not able to keep them from putting in nearly half of their shots attempted.
The third quarter looked like it was going to be magic on the way for the Hokies, but it was too early to think about worrying whether Iowa was going to beat South Carolina (which they did, BTW) or not. The Hokies went on a run, pushed out the lead to 9 points (59-50), and it was looking like the Tigers were going to be put away.
That was not to be, because as the break between quarters ended, the Hokies’ offense almost completely fizzled out, and their defense ran out of gas. LSU went on a tub thumping 22-3 run even with a three-point shot from Georgia Amoore that pushed the lead back to 5 points. Unfortunately, that was the last bucket (at the 7:52 mark) that Tech would make until the 2:05 mark when Georgia hit three in a row from the charity stripe on a downtown attempt that LSU fouled. That’s more than five minutes without a single bucket going in, and that wasn’t a dagger, it was a sledgehammer smash. Tech managed to keep it close by defense, but just couldn’t get the ball to drop into the hole on offense. The Hokies final field goal was a trey by Cayla King, the remainder were all free throws.
It was a heartbreaking finish to an outstanding season, and I am sure there were more than a few tears flowing in the locker room.
Let’s Talk Significant Stats:
With 72 points on the board, the Hokies scored. They didn’t score as much as they would have liked, and even if they had hit 30% of their shots in the 4th quarter would have won, but that’s all for the books. What each player will come away with is a maximum effort, leaving it all on the court, and all that they have accomplished this season.
Special Plea: Liz! (Cayla too!) Please stay one more season. This team can do it again next season if it stays intact.
Kitley finished with a double-double for the 57th time. She put up 18 points, 12 boards, and 7 blocks! She even pushed out 3 assists and even stole the ball once. It was an excellent game, and no one can take that away from her, win or lose.
Not only did our Aussie superstar hit the record for made treys in the tournament, but Georgia Amoore also grabbed Hokie nation by the heart. She challenged our geographic knowledge and made it aware of where Ballarat, Victoria was. She has also made herself a future Hokie Hall of Famer, and a Hokie for life.
This evening, she broke that record, and even with some painful heavy pressure managed to score in double figures with 17 points and a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line. She also grabbed three reebs and dished 2 assists. Better yet, Georgia is coming back Home to Virginia Tech for her senior year. If she’s done this as a Junior, just think of what 2023/2024 is going to be...
This was the time to shine, and Traylor’s balance in the backcourt, her drive to the basket and her ability to break through defenses nearly turned the tide for Tech. It was a great game with her 17 points, perfection with 4 from the charity stripe on offense was also complemented by her 9 rebounds, and 2 steals. KT also chipped in an assist.
Liz Kitley’s long time basketball running mate from high school, Cayla only put up 9 shots (all from downtown) for the game, 4 of them drained, she also made her two free throws to push her point total to 14. King also grabbed an impressive 3 steals, and 6 rebounds. King is covered by the COVID free season, and we certainly hope that she chooses to play one more season for the Hokies. What would we do without the Cayla King Nod?
Taylor Soule and D’asia Gregg
Soule and Gregg each played about half a game. T-Soule was out for half of it with only 20 minutes on the floor, Gregg put in 26. Their roles seemed to be defensive and offensive screening. Soule put in 4 points, had a block, a steal, and 4 rebounds, 3 of which were offensive boards. Gregg contributed 2 points, and 2 rebounds. They took a grand total of 8 shots between them, to give you an idea of how busy they were doing their jobs. Stats for screening and defense aren’t glamorous but they are known and appreciated by real basketball fans, and their teamates who ended up getting free to make a basket or when the opponent takes a poor shot that results in an exchange flip.
Reality is Far Less Brutal Than Temporary Pain, in Fact - IT’S FABULOUS!
The reality is though, that the tears from the loss should be completely temporary. This team is special, the players were amazing, and Hokie Nation Loves every single one of them.
No one expected the ACC Championship win. No one expected the dominance. No one expected the thrilling games, the exciting wins, and the charge to the Final Four. This team will end up the season at #4, where it finished. Which is simply AMAZING!!!
We here at Gobbler Country send our best. We committed to covering the Women’s Basketball Team fully this season. We went to games, covered the first two rounds of the tournament from the floor, and were treated to an amazing run. We’re doing it again, starting in November, you can count on it. This time with more of our own pictures to sprinkle in.