Jackets hold off Wake Forest for clutch win

Sophomore guard Tonie Morgan drives towards the basket against Notre Dame guard Anna DeWolfe in the 85-48 loss. // Photo by Danny Karnik GTAA

In a week of highs and lows  Tech women’s basketball, the Y Jackets faced a tough challenge against No. 14 Notre Dame, followed by a gritty comeback win against Wake Forest. These back-to-back games showcased the resilience and potential of the team as they navigated the ups and downs of ACC competition.

The game on Feb. 1 against Notre Dame at McCamish Pavilion was a tough outing for Tech. The Jackets struggled to find their rhythm, facing a formidable opponent in the Fighting Irish. The game started unfavorably for Tech, as they were held scoreless for nearly 10
minutes in the first half. 

This drought allowed Notre Dame to establish a commanding 35-9 lead. Despite efforts by sophomore guards Tonie Morgan and Inés Noguero, who managed to sink some threes in the second quarter, Tech’s shooting woes continued, ending the first half with a paltry 17.9 percent shooting from the floor. The team’s overall shooting percentage was a mere 25.4 percent for the game, underscoring the need for improvement on the offensive end of the floor.

 The team’s overall shooting ability, or lack thereof, highlighted a pressing need for offensive improvement and enhanced strategy on the court. Sophomore guard Kara Dunn, however, was a beacon of hope for the Jackets, leading the team with 17 points, marking her 15th game this season scoring in double figures. 

Despite her efforts and a slightly improved final quarter where Tech outscored Notre Dame 17-16, the deficit was too large to overcome. The game concluded with an 85-48 victory for Notre Dame, with freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo and junior forward Kylee Watson leading the charge for the Fighting Irish.

Turning the page to Feb. 4, the team showed a different side of their game against Wake Forest at the LJVM Coliseum. The Jackets, led by the dynamic duo of Tonie Morgan and junior forward Kayla Blackshear, who combined for 40 points, secured a narrow 58-55 victory. Morgan, showcasing her scoring prowess, logged her fourth game of the season with 20 or more points, finishing with 22. Blackshear, dominant in the first half, led all scorers with 12 points by halftime, helping Tech to establish a strong early lead.

 This game was a testament to Tech’s defensive improvements and offensive efficiency. Holding Wake Forest to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half and effectively managing their lead, the Jackets showed a level of control and maturity that was missing in their previous outing. The victory was not just about the points on the scoreboard but about overcoming psychological barriers and bouncing back from a bad defeat.

The game was not without its challenges, as Wake Forest rallied back in the third quarter, cutting Tech’s lead to just two points. However, the final quarter belonged to Morgan, who took control of the game, scoring 13 points to secure the win for Tech. Her performance in the clutch, particularly at the free-throw line, exemplified the resilience and determination of the team.

The Jackets’ defensive prowess, coupled with improved shooting efficiency, laid the foundation for this success. The ability to maintain composure and execute under pressure, particularly in the closing stages of the game, was indicative of a team that had learned from its prior missteps. In their opportunity for redemption, the team was determined to forge a path to victory.

This week of games highlighted Tech’s ability to face adversity, learn and bounce back. However, the victory against Wake Forest demonstrated the team’s mental toughness and ability to close tight games. 

As Tech prepares for their next game against Syracuse on Feb. 8 in the JMA Wireless Dome, the team will carry the lessons they learned from their two performances. 

The resilience and fight shown against Wake Forest, coupled with the scoring abilities of players like Dunn, Morgan and Blackshear, will be crucial factors as the Jackets look to make their mark in the ACC and keep rolling on the road against the Orange.