As Notre Dame’s Anaya Peoples dribbled the ball up the floor in a 75-75 tie with just over a minute left, she stopped for a moment and let her offense set itself up.
While Peoples stopped at the top of the key to dribble, two of her teammates cleared the paint and the Virginia Tech defenders that were guarding them followed. Peoples then took a dribble, crossed over the ball from one side of her body to the other, and ran past Georgia Amoore.
She slowed down as she approached the low block and then awkwardly jumped, raised the ball over her head, and let it go. As she landed, the ball was on direct beeline for the glass. The ball hit the glass and banked into the basket and Peoples put Notre Dame on top by two points.
After Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley turned the ball over for a team-leading sixth time on the other end of the floor, it allowed Peoples to drive to the hoop and score her second consecutive layup, this time with 31 seconds left as it gave the Fighting Irish a four point lead and iced Notre Dame’s (3-3, 1-1 ACC) win over Virginia Tech (6-1, 1-1 ACC).
“I really don’t think we deserved to win it the way we played down the stretch,” said head coach Kenny Brooks after the loss. “We made some critical errors, critical mistakes and we didn’t execute when we had to.”
As the game clock winded down in the final quarter, the Hokies were ice cold and only converted five of the 15 shots that the offense took. Not only did Tech not shoot the ball well, but it also struggled to rebound the ball in the final quarter — grabbing only seven boards compared to Notre Dame’s 12. The team also turned the ball over five times in the final quarter and only mustered 16 points.
Earlier in the quarter, team captain Aisha Sheppard, who had 14 points, fouled out and without her, the team profoundly missed her presence and veteran leadership in those tight, tense moments as the offense only scored six more points without her on the floor.
“I don’t think Aisha had a particularly good defensive game,” Brooks said. “And her foul trouble hindered us down the stretch and the way we were trying to operate.”
Turnovers badgered the Hokies throughout the night as they gave the ball to the Fighting Irish 21 times, a trend that has plagued the Hokies all season. Even though Kitley turned the ball over six times, she made up for it on the offensive end, teaming up with guard Amoore to lead the way on offense with 25 and 23 points, respectively.
“(Kitley and Amoore) are a hard guard,” Brooks said. “We need more than that, because, you know, Aisha Sheppard didn’t give us a whole lot of production and Cayla King didn’t score a point. We need more than just two kids stepping up and contributing.”
Coming out the halftime break, both teams got into a rhythm throughout the third quarter and combined to shoot 16-29 overall, including a combined 5-9 mark from beyond the arc. Even though the Hokies outscored the Irish, they still trailed at the end of the third quarter, 63-62.
The Hokies were unable to capture the momentum that they seized at the end of a 15-4 run as the first quarter drew to a close. In the second quarter, the team shot a respectable 5-11 from the floor, but the turnover bug bit Virginia Tech as it gave the Fighting Irish 10 free possessions. Tech only scored 12 points and trailed heading into halftime down by five points, 43-38.
In the first quarter, Tech led 26-17 over Notre Dame. From the floor, the team shot a staggering 61% and appeared to be running away with the game early.
After the game, Brooks announced that the ACC hasn’t approved the NCAA’s blanket waiver policy that was adopted Wednesday night for all of D1 sports. Azana Baines is one of those players awaiting the ACC’s approval, despite the NCAA’s move to grant instant eligibility to transfers.
Baines, a former highly recruited guard, transferred from Duke over the offseason, where she averaged 4.8 points per game for the Blue Devils in 29 games last season.