ATLANTA — On Sunday, February 26, the Yellow Jackets fell 65-52 to #9 Virginia Tech in the last home game of the 2022-23 season. Prior to the game, Nerea Hermosa, Cameron Swartz, and Bianca Jackson were all honored in the Senior Day celebration. According to Nell Fortner, it was not lost on them what this game in particular meant.
“These seniors, everybody likes them, they’re good kids. Nerea is such a nice person and Cam & Bianca also are good people. I know the kids were wanting to do well and win the game for them, but it was an uphill climb for us.”
From the jump, the Hokies proved their ranking with a 4-point play from starter Cayla King. Virginia Tech’s center, Elizabeth Kitley, flexed her muscle underneath the basket, scoring her first of 29 points on the day. Tech’s offense struggled to find a rhythm for the majority of the game and notably in the first quarter, recording five turnovers and only 10 points.
Rolling into the second, scoring was back and forth. The Jackets fought back with a couple jump shots from Bianca Jackson, a bucket from Nerea Hermosa, and a three from Avyonce Carter. Georgia Tech’s scoring came to a halt for 3:30 and was finally saved with two back-to-back threes from Cameron Swartz.
With more back-and-forth scoring to start the third, Tech was able to hold the Hokie lead to nine with 5:57 left, which felt like a win but was thanks most in part to Swartz’s shooting ability.
The fourth followed more of the same pattern. The Jackets’ held Virginia Tech to only 12 points in the final quarter, but were unable to capitalize offensively.
“We were running things to get other people in a flow, but we weren’t knocking the shots down. You have to be ready to shoot the ball and you’ve got to have confidence to shoot the ball. Cam can’t shoot the ball every time down the floor. We got some good looks but shot a poor percentage.”
Moreover, Fortner also noted “We cut one of their big leads to give ourselves a chance but we didn’t have an answer for Kitley. She really hurt us, so that part’s disappointing... I thought we had some good looks at the basket and just couldn’t knock shots down. We’ve gotta learn how to finish games out and win games. [We] have to figure out how to win games.”
The Jackets will travel to Greensboro, NC this week for the ACC Tournament. When asked for thoughts going into the tournament, Coach Fortner said Strategically against Boston College, it will be more of the same: “We’ll stay with our lineup that we’ve been playing all year and sub in and out off of that. This team has been so up and down all year we have the ability to play with people in this league and compete and play with people, we just have to believe we can win the game. We were without Kara Dunn today, and she’s been a huge part of what we’ve been able to continue to progress and get better, even if that doesn’t come out in the win loss record. Kara’s an important piece of what we do.”
Tech will play 11th-seeded Boston College in the first round on Wednesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. (ACCN). Tech faced off against the Golden Eagles earlier this season losing that contest 74-62. Boston College is 15-16 overall, and 5-13 in ACC play.
If Tech wins, they will face 5th-seed Miami in the second round. All games will be broadcast on ACCN for the single-elimination tournament. Tech’s only path to the NCAA Tournament now is by winning the ACC Tournament.
On the seniors and their futures, Fortner said, “Nerea is going back to start being a pro, she’ll go back to Spain and be a pro. Bianca’s eligibility is over when we’re done. Cam, I don’t know what she’s going to do. I don’t know if she has another year possibly, we’ll have to wait and see on that.”
On Swartz, she has played in five different seasons, but in her freshman year at Colorado she only played in seven games. As of writing, we are not sure if she has eligibility for next season.
More Nell Fortner Postgame Quotes
“Kitley’s got a really strong, high release that even with our 6’5’’ and a total contest she’s knocking them down. Kudos to her, she’s knocking them down. She’s a total pro.”
“We still want [Cameron] to shoot the ball. We’ll still run stuff for her. Cam is a really good ball player and a nose for the ball and a nose for the basket.”
“We weren’t strong enough in that fourth quarter to close the gap.”
“Nerea matches up well body for body with Kitley. She has that good size and length when she contests a shot, but the tough part was that Kitley touched the ball too much. I’m sure it was an emotional day for her, but Nerea gives us great size.”
“We’ll leave for Greensboro tomorrow, practice on Tuesday, and play on Wednesday.”