Virginia Tech earns first ACC crown with 75-67 win over Louisville

Virginia Tech Athletics photo.

Virginia Tech raced past Louisville, 75-67, to claim their first ACC Tournament title in program history on Sunday.

Georgia Amoore lead the way for the Hokies with 25 points, and was named tournament MVP, after scoring a tournament-best 14 3-pointers in three games. Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley added 20 points and Taylor Soule had 13.

Kenny Brooks, who became the first Black coach to win an ACC title, credited his players for their work ethic.

“I knew when these kids and they committed to us, I knew eventually, we were going to be playing for different things and they proved me right and they worked diligently everyday,” he said.

Thanks to the win, Tech is now projected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and have won their last 11 matchups. This particular win required them to withstand great pressure from the Cardinals, on both offense and defense.

Louisville made several runs at the end to make the game close, but always, there was either Amoore or Kitley or Soule to get a bucket when their team needed it. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were dependent on Chrislyn Carr (27 points), Hailey Van Lith (12 points) and Olivia Cochran (11 points) respectively, even though Van Lith shot 24 percent from the field.

Up next for not just these two teams, but the entire ACC is Selection Sunday next weekend.

In Saturday’s semifinals, the third time was the charm for Louisville, as they finally beat Notre Dame, 64-38, after losing to them twice in the past two weeks by a combined 5 points. Hailey Van Lith once again led the way for the Cardinals with 15 points, and was supported by Olivia Cochran (12 points), Chirslyn Carr (10 points) and Mykasa Robinson (10 points).

The Irish had just seven field goals in the first half and saw four players with at least three fouls: Sonia Citron, Maddy Westbeld, KK Bransford and Lauren Ebo. Citron, in particular, was double-teamed every time she brought the ball up the court as their primary ball handler, with Olivia Miles still injured.

“They came out obviously denying Sonia and were double-teaming and put all their best defenders on her,” Westbeld said. “I would just say that they were very strategic in the way that they came out and played.”

The relentless Louisville defense forced Notre Dame into just 31.4 percent overall shooting and three quarters of 7, 8 and 9 points respectively. Eventually, Van Lith heated up with 11 points in the second half, which allowed for her team to pull away.

“My coaches and my teammates were telling me to keep shooting, so I just kept getting to the same spots I got to in the first half,” Van Lith said. “It wasn’t really a different mentality or anything. I kept the same mindset.”

In the other semifinal match, Virginia Tech overcame a slow start to bury Duke, 58-37. Georgia Amoore was responsible for over 40 percent of the Hokies’ points with 24, to go along with 7 assists.

Even though ACC player of the year Elizabeth Kitley scored just 8 points, her impact was still huge, as the Blue Devils focused so much of their attention on slowing her down with multiple defenders – including Kennedy Brown – in the paint that it allowed for the perimeter to be open for Amoore as well as Cayla King (7 points).

“We were not as disciplined as we needed to be in that first half and as a result, they got open looks and when you give them open looks, they’re probably the best team in the league in making you pay for it,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said.

The game was close at first, as Virginia Tech led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter and led 19-18 at the 6:18 mark of the second quarter, but after that, they embarked on a 17-0 run to go into halftime leading 36-18. It was all about the 3-ball for both teams, as Duke kept missing them and Amoore was making them.

Things remained the same in the second half, as the Blue Devils never were able to cut the deficit down to single digits, and Amoore made six 3-pointers. It was their 10th straight win – their last being to the Blue Devils earlier in the season.

“It wasn’t pretty all the time, but I think that’s the way that they made the game, but we had some really good performances and a very balanced attack,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said.