No. 11 Virginia Tech rules out 3-time ACC player of year Elizabeth Kitley for league tournament

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Three-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley won't play in this week's league tournament. The next question is where things stand with No. 11 Virginia Tech's injured star for the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Kenny Brooks said Friday that the 6-foot-6 graduate is doing rehab work after going down grabbing her left knee in the regular-season finale against Virginia, but he ruled her out in the top-seeded Hokies' chase for a second straight championship here.

“She will not play in this tournament, regardless of how far we go,” Brooks said after the Hokies beat Miami 55-47 in Friday's quarterfinals. “No offense, but we really feel like we want to focus and really make that run that we did last year.”

Kitley was hurt Sunday night with 6:05 left when her knee appeared to buckle when she landed on a transition layup. Kitley eventually walked off the court to the locker room and later returned to the bench but didn’t play again.

Brooks said the team is “taking it slow” and that Kitley is “diligently rehabbing.” Beyond that, there were few certainties for a team coming off its first Final Four trip last year and little more than a week away from Selection Sunday.

“Another week is going to be able to do some wonders, not only from a physical standpoint but from an emotional standpoint,” Brooks said, adding that the team will “reevaluate when the time is right next week and see where we go.”

Kitley joined her teammates on the bench and on the court for pregame shootaround Friday, though she wasn't dressed out and sported a white “Hokies Energy" long-sleeved T-shirt and gray athletic pants. She wandered about a bit above the 3-point arc and exchanged high-fives or claps with teammates, but often stood just watching with her hands in her pockets.

Yet when she joined the pregame huddle before starting lineups, she walked gingerly back to the bench area with a slight limp.

Her team had to tussle to get through Miami without the post player that absorbs defensive attention into the paint to open space for 3-point shooters like Georgia Amoore or Cayla King. As Brooks said, with the team's offensive play calls, “probably 75% of them, 80(%) involve Liz, then we play off that.”

Amoore — the other half of the prolific 1-2 punch that powered Virginia Tech's run last season — came on late to finish with 27 points and push the Hokies through despite the team shooting just 5 of 26 from behind the arc.

“We just talked about how everybody needs to do their part and nothing more,” King said. “Maybe be a little bit better. Everybody just has to step up some.”

Still, Kitley's presence remained large. Back in an arena roughly 20 minutes from her hometown of Summerfield, Kitley was honored at midcourt as the recipient league's Kay Yow Scholar Athlete of the Year, then also acknowledged for becoming only the third player to be named the league's top player for three straight seasons.

When the game ended, Kitley gave a high-five and a big smile to fellow graduate player King, then wrapped her right arm around her teammate in a hug. She joined the postgame handshake line, but didn't talk to reporters after the game.

“(Injuries) are a part of the sport,” Brooks said. “We understand that. When I talk to the kids, our expectations are still the same. We know that we can do it, and partly it’s because of the leadership that we have.”


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