Hokies’ Season Comes To An End In NCAA Tournament Loss To Baylor

Jada Walker and Baylor ran away from the Hokies on Sunday in Cassell Coliseum. (Ivan Morozov)

Baylor guard Jada Walker was untouchable for six seconds that felt like an eternity Sunday night in Blacksburg. She dribbled around like something out of a Harlem Globetrotters game, and Virginia Tech struggled to wrangle her.

The Bears led by one with 12.4 seconds remaining and Tech was trying to foul and stop the clock. But that quick play, and the one prior — Walker ran off about four seconds since Tech had a foul to give — encapsulated a 40-minute game. The Hokies were a step behind in their 75-72 loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Baylor.

They led for just 17 seconds, a stretch that came at the end of the third quarter. Though they were never quite in control, they were never out of the game. They fought, scratched and clawed in front of a sold-out Cassell Coliseum crowd that was on the verge of exploding but just didn’t have enough.

“Congratulations to Baylor. Played a little bit better than we did tonight,” Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said afterwards. “That’s what this thing is all about to survive and advance.”

Without All-American and three-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley, who suffered a season-ending injury on March 3 and cheered her team on from the sideline through the postseason, Tech fought extremely hard. It never fell behind by more than eight, and even when things looked bleak late — it trailed by four with 19 seconds left but a Georgia Amoore 3-pointer made it a one-point game — it never gave up.

However, the Bears (26-7) were just better Sunday. The Hokies (25-8) were ready for the stage but came up just short. All they could do after their first home loss in 15 months was stand and watch Baylor celebrate, thinking about what could’ve been.

Baylor jumped in front just 22 seconds in and never took its foot off the gas. Paced by veterans Walker and Sarah Andrews, who combined for 44 of its 75 points (59%), it set the tone in terms of intensity. It didn’t let Tech get into its sets early, forcing three first-quarter turnovers from Amoore. Offensively, it got downhill frequently, often blowing by a Tech defender on the way to the rack, but couldn’t pull away. At the break, the Bears led 32-28.

Georgia Amoore tried to will the Hokies to a victory. (Ivan Morozov)

The Hokies stayed connected and grew into the game defensively. The offense picked things up in the second half despite a slow start, too. After a 2-of-16 mark from behind the arc in the first half, they were 7-of-12 in the second. Matilda Ekh led the charge. After missing her first four 3-pointers, she was perfect on the same number of attempts after intermission. Amoore heated up, too, making two of her five while Carleigh Wenzel drained one.

But little things came back to bite Virginia Tech. It turned the ball over 14 times — four each in the first, second and fourth quarters; just twice in the third — which often came in key moments, like Olivia Summiel’s errant pass with 1:06 remaining. Even on Tech’s final possession with 1.3 seconds on the clock, Baylor guarded the action well and deflected the inbounds pass, which threw off the final opportunity.

The Bears made more crucial plays when it mattered. Walker drained a 3-pointer just after crossing halfcourt as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter, which sucked the life out of the building despite Wenzel nailing a trey from the corner just seven seconds before. Instead of things being knotted up at 52, Baylor led by three. And that came 31 seconds after Amoore missed a wide-open layup that would’ve given Tech the lead back.

Defensively, the Hokies couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Cayla King fouled out while chasing and attempting to corral Walker, meaning she was unavailable for the final possession — Wenzel inbounded instead — while Clara Strack, Rose Micheaux and Summiel spent chunks of the game with multiple personals. The Bears made just 16 of their 25 free throws, which kept the door open for the home team.

Tech also allowed seven offensive boards, which led to 12 points off from Baylor. Though it won the battle on the glass 36-35, it gave up three offensive rebounds in the final 12 minutes that led to baskets.

“I thought we played hard, but I think we just had some mental lapses and had some crucial turnovers or missed opportunities late down the stretch,” Amoore said.

Ekh (19 points), Amoore (18) and Strack — who had her first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds — were the key contributors. King also chipped in seven points while Wenzel added six. Micheaux and Summiel each made one basket. Carys Baker, despite not scoring, was pivotal defensively and on the boards with three rebounds, two steals and a block.

Clara Strack played very well for the Hokies but it wasn’t enough against Baylor. (Ivan Morozov)

It wasn’t enough to overcome a sharp Baylor team that made fewer mistakes, however, even despite Amoore’s last-ditch heroics.

“We didn’t lose because of lack of effort tonight,” Brooks said. “We didn’t always play great. We had some spells and some things happen that didn’t go our way, but very proud of them and their effort.”

The result was the final game in the collegiate careers of Kitley, King and Summiel. Amoore has an opportunity to return for a fifth season, though she’s a projected first-round pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft. She has quite the decision to make, one that will likely be directly connected to Brooks’ opportunity to leave for a head-coaching job at Kentucky. Multiple outlets reported he’s the Wildcats’ top target.

If Amoore opts to continue her career elsewhere, it’ll mark the end of the greatest era in Virginia Tech women’s basketball history. Since Kitley and King stepped on campus in the fall of 2019, the program is 115-42 (.732). At home, it’s 66-11 (.857), a mark that’s an incredible 44-4 (.917) at home in the last three years.

Those two, along with Amoore, were crucial in helping Brooks turn Tech into a winner. The growth didn’t happen overnight — especially the fan support — but it was a tremendous journey that featured two ACC titles and a Final Four.

No one pictured it ending on Carilion Clinic Court with tears in the eyes of many, not after being in the sport’s spotlight with ESPN’s College GameDay a month prior. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this,” Brooks said. Yet, that’s the beauty of sports.

What should be remembered, though, is the impact that Amoore, King and Kitley had on so many lives. They went from practically begging folks to sit in the stands to struggling to hear over a roaring crowd that couldn’t be contained. Waiting around for autographs for hours after games became the standard, not a rarity. They turned a program that was a cellar dweller into an ACC staple, from an almost-forgetful brand in women’s basketball into a well-known one.

Cayla King and Georgia Amoore have made their mark at Virginia Tech. (Ivan Morozov)

All of which they did with the utmost class, humility and grace, leaving an everlasting legacy and inspiring so many folks along the way.

“You can be a great player,” an emotional Brooks said, “but if you don’t have the mentality, the work ethic, and the ability to lead people — when I say lead, I mean, they lead our program, but they also help lead this community. The affect that they’ve had on this community not only young people, old people, they’ve made a lot of people women’s basketball fans here at Virginia Tech.

“Sometimes when you get players of that caliber, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit. You have to sacrifice maybe integrity, but those kids are the full package. They’re great kids, and what they’ve done for this program, this community, for me, you can’t even put it into words. That’s how special they are.”

Box Score: Baylor 75, Virginia Tech 72 

28 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Thank you Bill and George for your posts – I couldn’t agree more . Coach Brooks has made us all feel apart of the team . Coach realized how important the fan base was .
    I’m so proud of these girls. And Fin’s post of the lasting impact this team has had on young girls , as well as sports lovers everywhere.
    Whit – finish off an amazing year .

  2. Not to be a jerk but VT Fans are rather fickle. Winning, all things are great. Slump and attendance slumps a lil. Don’t pick it back up quickly and they are gone.

  3. I wonder if Georgia is still a first round pick.
    I hope she thinks NOT, and comes back for a better final season
    The good players are here, they just need a floor leader

  4. Great season, ladies and coaches! Heartfelt thanks and best wishes to our departing seniors! Hoping we can keep this thing together going forward.

  5. Coach Brooks has some unfinished business here at VT he needs to attend to. Now is not the time to go elsewhere!!!

  6. The VT Women’s Basketball TEAM is a real rarity in sports today – at least from what we read and hear about in college these days – a team first and a set of individuals second. Everyone has had everyone’s back for the past several years, and everyone is happy to see the others succeed if the team succeeds. So much of what we read about today is selfish disloyalty (the portal helps that trend to happen), materialism (NIL $)*, and “me” instead of “we”.

    Coach Brooks is a very special coach and more importantly a very special person. He truly loves what he does and he puts everything into it. In these days of NIL money being waved around, he builds community around his players that seeps out into the community of Hokie Nation, and makes great people into great players who WANT TO BE at VT, want to contribute to a common cause that used to be the mantra of team sports, and deserve the adoration of the huge crowds in the Cassell. How many times have we heard Mark Packer comment on ACCN that “VT is such an easy team to pull for”? Wonder why? CKB is why. VT cannot give up. We older fans remember the last time we were building women’s basketball like this, no repeats please.

    And, though some might suggest that the era is over (c’mon Andy B) with the loss of our seniors and 5th years, it is pretty clear that we are already loaded with enough talent to go toe to toe with a 5 seed after less than 2 weeks of a rebuild of team roles after a tragic event. We also see that our recruiting will continue to find players who want this sort of environment, and parents who want this sort of environment for their daughters. How did we attract Clara Silva? How could we come in ahead of UConn, Tenn, Maryland, LSU or, now I’ll add Baylor to the list after the show put on by the Baylor coach last night? If your 17 year old daughter was going to leave home and travel far around the world, which of those programs would you pick? With our coach and community/family environment, it is no surprise that we have one of the top centers in the world coming to Blacksburg all the way from Portugal, an important transfer from Sweden via MSU, and that we have another Aussie joining us in the fall via Junior College.

    So keep it up CKB! It is working here in Blacksburg, and your team can be/is the model of the ACC with excellent team play, impressive humility, and excellent academic record. Everything here is a win-win!!!

    Go Hokies!!! Already looking forward to next fall!!

    *Note: I fully understand the previous financial unfairness that makes the need for the portal and NIL, but I also see the need for some regulations to keep it all reasonable.

    1. I didn’t read Andy Bitter’s comments that this is the end of Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball, but simply the end of the era of players that created this unprecedented run. I saw it as a disappointing finish in what was otherwise a special team. I think the level of the program and expectations have been lifted meaning that it’s up to the next era of players to keep it going, but that this group of players will always be remembered because they got us here. I include Soule, Traylor, Gregg, and Aisha Sheppard as well even though she wasn’t on last year’s team but helped build it. That’s what I read in Andy’s comments.

      1. I can certainly see that view as well – but likely didn’t because of the timing of the comments and the UK news.


    2. It’s been a great run but CKB needs to stay for it to continue. No disrespect toward him, but if he leaves Hokie fans can expect an exodus of current players and recruits. Even if Brooks doesn’t entice a single one to follow him, there will be attrition simply due to the uncertainty involving a coaching change. Whit has one job at present: Keeping Brooks!

      1. Agreed, need to address the salary disparity. It will cost VT more in lost ticket and TV revenue if the program has to rebuild.

      2. There is another great women’s basketball coach out there, who would love a shot at a VT job.

    3. Well said Bill, thank you. I aagree with your evaluation of the quality of Coach Brooks and his mark on this program. C’mon Whit, open that checkbook!

  7. Ladies, thank you for a remarkable journey. You showed how you can be champions with class and integrity. Youl’ll be great ambassadors of Hokie Nation

  8. Liz’s Tears, the end of a GREAT RUN. Coach Brooks, his staff and all the players have made many OLD HOKIES, like me, smile often and always so proud to be a VPI alum. Thank you, Thank you.

    1. Liz’s tears: first time I can ever remember seeing her appear vulnerable. A total class act.

  9. Not the ending we all wanted but this program has a bright future. These seniors provided some great moments and excitement.

  10. Great article. I wish these girls knew the impact they’ve had on our younger girls…my daughter. I know in truth it may not be something they will really grasp until they are older (maybe once they have children of their own) and can look back. When my 13 year old daughter picks Amoore as the “famous person she looks up to bc she is genuine but real.” What does that say about the influence these players have on our girls?
    I know that is the type of girls CKB has brought in and recruits. While I know in my head he must do what is right for him and his family, I am keeping fingers triple crossed that he knows just how much he is loved, appreciated and wanted here in Hokie Nation!
    I wonder if he (or the girls) ever read these comments…LOL

  11. These women have left an indelible memory for all of us to remember for the rest of our lives. And oh what could have been. Georgia, you have another year to use to cement your legacy in Hokie Nation and help bring along the new ladies who will follow in your steps. Liz , Cayla and Olivia thank you for all you have done and the way you have gracefully done it.

      1. A team and a coach with class. It’s a shame the SEC (Kentucky) couldn’t wait till then end of our season before they created all the distractions.

        1. Agreed.Kentucky shows it all about the money and not the student athlete. Total classless act.

          1. No disrespect to CKB, but the reports re: the UK job are almost certainly coming from his camp. Builds more pressure on Whit to whip out that checkbook.

Comments are closed.