Sweet 16 ‘incredibly special’ achievement for Georgia Tech

Credit: NCAA

Credit: NCAA

On a day when Connecticut made its 27th consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, Stanford its 13th in a row, Baylor its 12th in a row, South Carolina its seventh in a row and N.C. State its third in a row, Georgia Tech nudged its way into lofty company.

With its 73-56 second-round win over West Virginia Tuesday night in San Antonio, Texas, the Yellow Jackets gained just their second Sweet 16 berth in school history and first since 2012. Georgia Tech will face No. 1 seed South Carolina on Saturday at a time to be determined.

“It’s incredibly special,” coach Nell Fortner said. “The biggest thing is, these players have never been to the NCAA Tournament before. This is their first run at it. They’re experiencing some success and it’s exciting.”

The dominance of teams like Connecticut and Stanford and their having seemingly reserved spots in the Sweet 16 and beyond (the Huskies have been to 12 consecutive Final Fours) speak to Tech’s achievement.

Credit: Stephen Spillman

Credit: Stephen Spillman

Besides the five teams who extended Sweet 16 streaks of at least three years on Tuesday, Iowa made it in for the second time in three years. Only Michigan had less familiarity with the Sweet 16 than Tech of the eight who advanced to the third round on Tuesday, as the Wolverines earned their first-ever trip. Winning two games in the tournament is no small accomplishment.

West Virginia was in the tournament for the 13th time and 11th time with coach Mike Carey in his 20 seasons. Tuesday was the Mountaineers’ ninth time in the round of 32 with Carey, and they have now lost all nine.

Only time will tell if this is the beginning of a streak that teams like top-seeded South Carolina (Tech’s Sweet 16 opponent) have assembled. If it is or not, Tuesday was regardless a moment to be treasured.

“I’m excited,” said guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, who led the Jackets with 22 points. “This is why we play, to play in these big games and to play in the Sweet 16. And my team is awesome. We have great chemistry and we just play together and just enjoy each other’s company on and off the court. This is what we dreamed of, and we’re going to go all the way. I’m just really proud of my team and just super happy.”

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