Jacket women’s hoops stops slide in finale

Photo by Tuna Ergan Student Publication

The Jacket women’s basketball team finished their regular season with two inter-conference road games, their second matchups against Florida State and Wake Forest. Tech visited the Seminoles on Feb. 24 after losing four of their last five, of which their only win was in overtime against Clemson. 

The first quarter started well, with Tech leading 12-8 after ten minutes, which included seven points from junior Nerea Hermosa. Tech finished the quarter 2-of-11 shooting, and proceeded to have a seven minute scoring drought in the second quarter that gave Florida State room to take the lead 28-21 at halftime. The critical difference maker in that half was FSU’s ability to get to the line, making ten free throws.

Tech went on a 15-0 run in the third quarter largely led by fifth-year Digna Strautmane, who had returned to the starting lineup only a couple games prior. Notably, sophomore Avyonce Carter was getting key guard minutes during that stretch over fellow sophomore Eylia Love, and contributed some scoring in the 15-0 run. FSU was able to gather and get a couple late buckets to keep Tech’s lead at one going into the fourth quarter.

Midway through the fourth, Hermosa picked up her fifth foul, which eliminated the best part of Tech’s offense in their high-low sets. 

Tied 54-54, FSU had the chance to take the last shot, but left 11 seconds for Tech to tie after senior Sarah Bates fouled Sara Bejedi. Love made a layup to send the game to overtime, Tech’s third trip in four games. With nine seconds to tie in OT, Love lost control on a driving layup attempt and turned it over, securing the 65-63 win for the Seminoles. Senior Lorela Cubaj finished with only one point, and two of her nine rebounds came in the second half. Stratumane and senior Lotta-Maj Lahtinen both finished with
16 points.

Tech’s trip to Winston-Salem fared far better, a must-win going into the NCAA tournament with the team projected as a 7-seed. Like many of Tech’s recent games, it stayed close for a large portion of the game, with Wake up 33-32 at halftime and defensively adjusting well after an offensive explosion by Carter that gave Tech a 28-19 lead in the second quarter.

The rest of the Wake game showed an offensive consistency that had been missing in Tech’s recent games, which included a long stretch where Hermosa had to sit out due to foul trouble. Tech was up 48-41 going into the fourth quarter. 

Tech’s lead did shrink to one at multiple points before head coach Nell Fortner felt good about putting Hermosa back in with four fouls. The Demon Deacons critically had no fouls to give with half the quarter left to go, allowing Tech to drive to the basket more aggressively, giving Hermosa and Lahtinen the opportunity to get layups that stretched Tech’s lead to their winning margin, 64-56. 

Cubaj finished with a historic line of 18/16/6, becoming the first ACC player to finish with a 15/15/5 line since 2015.

Tech finishes the regular season 20-9 (11-7 ACC), placing sixth in the ACC. While they will have played at least one game by the time of publishing, Tech’s route to the ACC championship likely runs through Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Louisville, and North Carolina State, three of whom are top-four seeds.

On the morning of March 1, Lahtinen was named an honorable mention for the All-ACC team. Cubaj was named the conference Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, and was also named First Team All-ACC.

On the men’s side, they also split their last two games, which included their second to last home game against Virginia Tech where they led for just over half the game and got lots of output from seniors Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher, who scored 18 and 11 points respectively. 

The Jackets were up four points after a half, but struggled getting three point shots to land, going 1-of-8 in the second half. Usher and freshmen Deebo Coleman and Jalon Moore all recorded one triple apiece. The Hokies took advantage of Tech’s slow half, winning 62-58.

Tech’s following game was in South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame. It was dismal from the start, with Tech out of it well before the first half was even over, losing 90-56, dropping their record to 11-18.