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Recap: No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies capture their first ACC championship with win over Louisville

The Virginia Tech Hokies made program history with yesterday’s ACC championship game win over the Louisville Cardinals.

Louisville v Virginia Tech
Taylor Soule (left), Elizabeth Kitley (center) and Kayana Traylor
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Georgia Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley combined for 45 points as the No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the Louisville Cardinals 75-67 to capture the first ACC championship (regular-season or tournament) in program history.

Virginia Tech had the best overall winning percentage of any team in the ACC this year. Led by the ACC Player of the Year in Elizabeth Kitley, the Hokies looked like the best team throughout the tournament, stifling the Miami Hurricanes and Duke Blue Devils en route to a dominant win over the Cards in the championship game.

For a team that was known for their dynamic offense all year, it was the Hokies’ defense that helped carry them to wins in this tournament. First, they held Miami to 42 points on below 25 percent shooting from the field. Even in a game where Virginia Tech didn’t shoot well themselves, they were able to contain Haley Cavinder and the Hurricanes by forcing them into contested shots.

Against a Duke team that was historically good on defense this year, it was timely and efficient shooting from beyond the arc that helped deliver the Hokies the victory along with more stifling defense. Duke struggled offensively all year so it’s hard to tell how much of that was excellent game-planning by Virginia Tech, but the most impressive part of the game was Georgia Amoore scoring 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting from three. The Hokies shot 9-of-17 (53 percent) from three as a team.

In the championship game, Kenny Brooks and the Hokies made a conscious effort to feed Kitley the ball early on, as she scored the first six points of the game, all coming from the short corner in isolation against Louisville’s bigs. Louisville came out aggressive early and after the game was tied at 14, the Hokies would go on a 7-0 run to end the first quarter. They would take the lead from that point on and never look back.

Louisville will likely look back at this game and feel there were missed opportunities to make a comeback. Late in the second quarter, the Cardinals committed two questionable fouls when the lead was within six points. The Hokies would make their free throws and enter halftime leading 38-28. It wasn’t insurmountable considering the experience Louisville has, but Kenny Brooks and the Hokies are disciplined as well considering they entered this game 21-0 when leading at halftime.

Louisville played its best quarter in the third, cutting the lead to seven thanks to big plays by Chrislyn Carr, who not only played like Louisville’s best player, but had six points and an assist in the period.

With the fourth quarter beginning and Virginia Tech clinging to a 51-44 lead, Brooks and the Hokies turned up the defensive intensity, going on a quick 7-0 to begin the fourth, boosting the lead up to 14, which effectively put the game out of reach for Louisville.

Taylor Soule came up huge for the Hokies in this game, scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including a pivotal coast-to-coast layup in the third quarter that turned the tide of the game when it appeared Louisville was on the comeback trail.

The Hokies did a great job forcing turnovers and making life difficult for Hailey Van Lith, who went 4-of-17 from the field. Virginia Tech was content conceding perimeter jumpers to Louisville’s bigs while focusing on denying Van Lith and Carr easy looks.

On the offensive side, Amoore won the ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, breaking the record for most threes made in ACC women’s tournament history. She made three huge three-pointers and had a team-high 25 points. The moment was especially sweet for Kitley, who won the ACC Tournament in her hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.

With the win, the Hokies have secured their bid to the NCAA Tournament and will find out their tournament path on Sunday.