In case you were wondering what play this story's photo header is from, observe below.
Virginia Tech pulled off the 64-63 upset against No. 5 Duke and all but locked up a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies simultaneously made me stay up until about 1:30 AM on a weeknight out of sheer adrenaline, but it was so, so worth it.
To start the last basketball photo story of the season for me (unless someone wants to pony up for plane tickets and a hotel for me at the Final Four...), we have Justin Robinson getting some good hang time on an otherwise very business-like slam dunk during warmups. I feel like I've been trying to make a good photo during warmups all season and it took until the last game to get something I liked out of it.
Grayson Allen made his presence felt in Cassell very early on in the game, which then made Cassell's collective noise generating abilities very apparent early on as well. Allen was everywhere in my photos, which is probably expected from a senior player at Duke, but also probably lends itself to why the Hokies ended up hanging around all game and staying within striking distance. A one-man show is a tough plan to execute.
I'm going to let Buzz Williams narrate these next three photos from this week's Tech Talk Live:
"Yeah, really special. Another lifetime memory, I think. Incredible coach, incredible team, incredible atmosphere, second Big Monday appearance in school history. It's the first time, since I've been here, that all four corners were filled. Just think the environment has continued to improve. The game atmosphere, all of the marketing and all of those people that work so diligently to try and figure out how to be more creative, I just think it's continued to improve.
Both head coaches earned their paychecks during the game more or less (righteously?) harassing the referees all night. Buzz and Coach K are probably two of the more....photogenic is the wrong word, but good photo subjects to make a picture of as they do so. The only thing missing from this game was TV Teddy or King Karl to balance it out from the other side.
Some actual basketball plays also happened from time to time:
Finally, we hit the end of the game. Trevon Duval misses a free throw (good job, Cassell Guard)...
...the Hokies take the lead for good on the opposite end, then defend the desperation three from Grayson Allen...
...and then all hell breaks loose.
Fun fact, I wasn't able to make a great photo of this moment (it is in fact possible to be too close), but right before this photo, Buzz (lightly...ish) punched athletic director Whit Babcock in the stomach a few times and a photo miss turns into "art".
First player I trailed was Justin Robinson, who broke off to yell towards the crowd all by himself near mid-court by the TV booth. After I followed him, I had some difficulties getting back onto the other side of the security cordon and basically had to shove my way through them to get back to more open court.
I also really like this photo of Robinson with the framing by the other two photographers on either side of him. It gives you just the small hint of context that this isn't a normal basketball photo, but that something different is going on.
This crop of students are getting good at this whole rushing the court thing, they filled up what the security guards would give them to the max. (I miss the full-court rush from previous years, but part of me wonders just how much weight the floor can take with thousands of students jumping up and down on it.)
Finally, once Buzz got his punches out, he immediately homed in on his family near the corner by the baseline. Easily the happiest looking I've seen him all year.