Add another accomplishment to the list for the Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team as they advanced to the ACC Tournament semifinals for the first time as members of the conference with their 87-80 overtime win to take down No. 4 seed North Carolina on Friday.
“We've done a lot of firsts this year,” Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball head coach Kenny Brooks said. “I told you guys before, this is the best team that I've had since I've been here, and I've never been able to go out there and compete with the best.”
After a thrilling end to regulation, the two sides were knotted at 69 heading to overtime thanks to a Georgia Amoore three-point play with 2.3 seconds to go followed by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by North Carolina’s Eva Hodgson. Although the Hokies could’ve rolled over in the extra period, they came out firing away and ran away with the game.
At the start of overtime, the back-and-forth battle continued as the Hokies and Tar Heels were trading baskets. At the halfway mark of the period, the Hokies flipped the script with a 10-0 run thanks to their sharp free throw shooting and stand-up defense.
“We endured it, we handled it, and then we started to dish it out as well,” Brooks said. “But what we're proving is that we can go out there and we can play a physical style, as well, and beat you at that game.”
Not only did Brooks and Co. get a ranked win outside of Blacksburg for the first time since Jan. 13th, but they did so without guard Cayla King for the whole game and star center Elizabeth Kitley for the majority of the contest.
In the first quarter, Kitley was scrambling for the loose ball on the defensive end when North Carolina’s Kennedy Todd-Willliams landed on the Hokie center. As the Summerfield, N.C. native stood up, you could tell that she was visibly in pain.
A clip of Elizabeth Kitley's injury in the first quarter vs. North Carolina this morning in Greensboro. pic.twitter.com/0ycma5YS9I— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) March 4, 2022
Brooks mentioned in the postgame press conference that Kitley tried to return to the game, but he mentioned that she’s too valuable to the team to risk suffering a more serious injury. The status for Kitley’s availability for Saturday’s semifinal is uncertain at the time.
Before departing the game, Kitley was a perfect 3-3 from the floor and had six points with two rebounds.
That’s not to take away from the phenomenal showings by the Hokies’ two other All-ACC players in guards Georgia Amoore and Aisha Sheppard, who each contributed 22 points.
It wasn’t the hottest start for the pair, but into the later portions of regulation, the star guards ignited the score sheet. In the fourth quarter, Sheppard knocked down three clutch free throws en route to a nine-point frame while Amoore converted a critical layup in the closing seconds to get her to eight points in the final frame.
“At the start of the season, finishing probably wasn't my strong suit,” Amoore said. “But I think in the tournament, it's a completely different game.”
Although the stars once again brought a strong effort to the hardwood in Greensboro, N.C., you can not overlook the rest of Tech's rotation in the tournament, especially with guard Kayana Traylor who recorded another double-figure performance with 19 points.
“We just wanted to make sure that we left everything out on the floor and didn't have any regrets,” Traylor said. “So I think that was the mindset and just getting through like every single possession.”
Looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament, this gives the Hokies another quality victory to boost an already impressive resumé and that could continue into Saturday with a matchup against the No. 1 seed N.C. State Wolfpack who are the #3 team in the country as well.
In the regular season, the Hokies and Wolfpack provided a pair of evenly fought battles, but N.C. State bested Virginia Tech in each one of those games which included a six-point victory in Raleigh on Jan. 23rd and a two-point win in Blacksburg on Feb. 27th.
Tip-off for Round 3 between N.C. State and Virginia Tech is slated for 12 p.m. and the game will broadcasted on the ACC Network.