Home Virginia Tech bows out earlier than expected: ‘It wasn’t supposed to end like this’

Virginia Tech bows out earlier than expected: ‘It wasn’t supposed to end like this’

Chris Graham
virginia tech kenny brooks
Photo: ACC

After last year’s Final Four, this year’s ACC regular-season championship, the 2024 NCAA Tournament wasn’t supposed to end for Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the second round.

“It wasn’t supposed to end like this,” Tech coach Kenny Brooks told reporters after the Hokies’ 75-72 loss to Baylor on Sunday.

Like this referring to, three-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley sitting in the cheap seats, a torn ACL suffered in the regular-season finale loss at Virginia ending her season, and her college career, a few weeks too soon.

The loss dropped Virginia Tech from an expected #1 seed all the way to a #4, and left 22.8 points and 11.4 rebounds cheering with the Cassell Guard as Tech battled Baylor, a #5 seed.

“Liz Kitley was supposed to be on the floor to help us fight to help us advance to the next round, and our kids could have very well hung their heads in all the dismay at the time when it happened, but they didn’t. They kept their focus. They locked in. They reinvented themselves. They had to reinvent themselves again,” said Brooks, who for my local readers, is a Waynesboro native, Waynesboro High School graduate, and JMU alum who played at Madison and then coached the Dukes to a 337-121 record in 14 seasons at his alma mater before taking the job at Virginia Tech in 2016.

It felt a little bit like last night’s loss was the end of an era for the Tech women’s program, which was so close last year in its Final Four run, losing by seven to eventual national champ LSU.

Brooks loses Kitley and Cayla King, both grad students, and could lose senior guard Georgia Amoore, a senior who does have one year of eligibility remaining, her COVID redshirt year, but is also a projected Top 10 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

If you’re looking for an indication into her thinking, her answers to a couple of postgame questions seemed to give us a hint.

“I’ve had a time,” she said to the first, a question asking her to reflect on her time at Virginia Tech. “I came here, and I was not good, couldn’t shoot, probably a little too overweight, probably too slow, had too much fun, had to get reeled in. But I got here, and it was the perfect place for me to settle in and kind of not control myself, but lock in on basketball. It’s a perfect place to do that.”

A little later in that answer: “I came out of high school, I had four offers or whatever. I took two visits, and one of them just happened to be here, and that’s a blessing in disguise,” Amoore said. “I didn’t know at that time how it would play out, but I took the chance, and I’m very, very grateful that I did, because I’ve got him for life now. I’ve loved it, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The other question hit on the close relationship that Amoore has forged with Brooks, who she called her “second dad.”

“Seriously, basketball, all that, but off court. I am fearful that we are the same person. I’m a 23-year-old woman, and I think I act a little too much like him,” Amoore said. “That’s my second dad. That’s my American dad. We’ve been through some tough times, we’ve been through some great times. It’s a relationship that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I know that I always have him, and I love him to death.”

That sounds like somebody ready to spread her wings and fly, and you couldn’t blame her, given what she’s accomplished, and how the pro scouts have her being an impact player at the next level right away.

Brooks, who only half-jokingly told reporters that he was going to have to start recruiting the transfer portal before going to bed, was also asked to reflect on the senior class that took the Tech program to previously unseen heights.

“I will remember this group. They’re like my daughters,” Brooks said. “Like Georgia said, we’re connected for life just because of the things that we went through, because when I got here, I think we were picked 14th in the ACC my first year. 13th or 14th. To get this program to where it is, and that building is loud, it wasn’t just because it was NCAA game. There were people there trying to make a good team great. A lot of that has to do with the kids that we talked about earlier and what they’ve done and how they have represented. This is a passionate fan base. They will support you.

“All that combined, I still walk by, and I have basketballs in my house that say Final Four, and I still have to pinch myself. That was us. We were there, and we belong there,” Brooks said.

If not for the bad luck of the Kitley injury, the Hokies could have very well been back for a second chance at a Final Four this spring.

As it was, without Kitley, the Hokies played from behind most of the night Sunday night, leading for just 17 seconds, a brief stretch late in the third quarter, but they hung tough.

An Amoore three with 16 seconds left made it a one-point game, but a pair of Jada Walker free throws with five seconds left made it a three-point game, and after Baylor used its foul-to-use with a second left on the clock, Tech wasn’t able to get a potential game-tying three off its final inbounds pass.

“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.

“To my seniors, they left a legacy here at Virginia Tech. We’re forever grateful, and we love them to death. This one stings, because we felt like we could have advanced, but things just didn’t happen our way,” Brooks said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].