On the final day of the regular season for ACC women's basketball, Virginia Tech defeated Wake Forest 69-57 inside Cassell Coliseum. Seniors Regan Magarity and Taylor Emery went out on a high note, scoring 17 and 20 points, respectively.
"It's always a special day when it's Senior Day," said Magarity. "I've been fortunate enough to be part of a team and a group that's very close, and I think for the seniors it's a special day. Being able to get a win definitely topped it off."
Magarity also added 15 rebounds to record her 20th double-double of the season.
The Hokies got off to a good start, hitting seven of their first fifteen baskets. Emery led all scorers with nine points in the opening frame, and Magarity added seven rebounds in the first quarter alone. Virginia Tech led 19-15 at the end of the first quarter.
However, at the end of the first quarter, Emery picked up her second foul. With Emery on the bench, the Hokies struggled to shoot for most of the second quarter.
"We let them get into a rhythm, and then we got in foul trouble," said head coach Kenny Brooks. "Taylor [Emery] had two fouls in the first quarter, so they moved into a zone."
The Hokies were still able to move the ball pretty well and get open looks from outside, but they just weren't falling. Virginia Tech went just 1-10 from three in the second quarter, and Wake Forest took a 32-31 lead into the break.
The Hokies clearly made some halftime adjustments, and they came out firing in the third quarter. They started the half a 10-0 run that was largely spurred on by much improved defense.
"At halftime, we talked about adjusting our ball screens," said Magarity. "In the first half, the guards would slide through, and it allowed them to penetrate and then pass it and kick it off to their post. But in the second half, we would hedge the ball screen. I think that pushed them out more, and they had harder looks,"
The defense led to energy on the other end of the court. Even though the Hokies still were not lighting it up from outside the arc, they were able to get good looks in the paint for the entirety of the third quarter, which allowed them to take a 47-40 lead into the fourth.
Wake Forest trimmed the lead to four with a three point play thirty seconds into the quarter, and the Hokies needed a response. Although they did not get it immediately on the offensive end, their defense kept Wake Forest from scoring for the next 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
Finally, with 7:17 left in the game, Aisha Sheppard nailed a three pointer to push the lead to 50-43. After that, the floodgates seemingly opened for the Hokies.
After going just 4-19 through the first three quarters, Virginia Tech hit three pointers on four of their next six possessions starting with that Sheppard basket. Two more late threes from Dara Mabrey gave the Hokies a scorching 6-for-6 mark for deep in the fourth quarter.
"That's who we are, and that's who we've been all year," said Brooks. "We've been able to knock down some threes."
Emery, who hit two of those six fourth-quarter triples, said she was finally able to find her rhythm late in the game.
"Early, I got into foul trouble, so I obviously got cold sitting on the bench," said Emery. "Coming out, you know, we needed to separate. I knew that a few of us had to hit some big shots, and we did."
Thanks to that 100 percent mark from three in the final quarter, the Hokies had a 16-point lead with 1:11 to go. That allowed coach Brooks to sub out Magarity and then Emery for the last time. Each one of them got a standing ovation as they came off the floor.
"It felt surreal, knowing that the end of our road is coming soon," said Emery. "You know, it's a special day, and I couldn't be more happy to be surrounded by people that I care about every day."
The Hokies were able to finish off Wake Forest by a score of 69-57 to send the seniors out the right way.
Key Stat - Hokies Out-rebound Demon Deacons 36-34
Despite the fact that Wake Forest is one of the taller teams in the ACC, Virginia Tech was able to maintain a slim advantage of them in the rebounding category. Much of that was thanks to 15 boards from Magarity. Trinity Baptiste added six of her own as well.
Still, coach Brooks said that he wants his team to rebound better when they face Wake Forest again on Wednesday.
"We out-rebounded them, but it felt like they just continued to get offensive rebounds at key times," said Brooks. He hopes to limit their offensive boards on Wednesday.
Since the Hokies are locked in as the 10 seed for the ACC Tournament, they will play on the first day in Greensboro. It just so happens that Wake Forest will be the 15 seed, which sets up a rematch of this regular season finale. That game will tip off at 3:30 pm inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor