GREENSBORO, N.C. -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley climbed the ladder, snipped the final strand of net and raised it as thousands of garnet-clad fans cheered.
Taking in the scene, she mouthed one word: "Unbelievable." Believe it. Staley and the Gamecocks are headed to their first Final Four.
Tiffany Mitchell scored seven of her 21 points in the final two minutes, and South Carolina beat Florida State, 80-74, yesterday in the Greensboro Regional final.
"It put South Carolina on the map," Staley said. "The regular season that we had, the success that we've had in [the Southeastern] conference, when you hurdle over being a regional champion and going to the Final Four, it puts your name in history. So it was a history-making game for us."
Alaina Coates finished with 14 points, A'ja Wilson added 10 and Asia Dozier hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds for the top-seeded Gamecocks (34-2). Playing from behind for most of the day, they shot 61 percent while rallying to win their seventh straight and keep the best season in school history going.
Next stop: Tampa, Florida, to face the Oklahoma City Regional winner next Sunday.
"I just remember last night watching the Kentucky men doing it, and thinking, 'That could be us tomorrow afternoon,' " Mitchell said. "To actually be in this moment and experience it means a lot."
Leticia Romero scored 13 points and Brittany Brown had 12 for the No. 2-seed Seminoles (32-5). The best season in program history ended after they set the school record for wins and reached their first ACC Tournament championship game. "Of course, we fell short of our goals, but we made history," Brown said. "I will remember this forever."
There were five ties and seven lead changes in the final 10-plus minutes. The last came when Mitchell's drive made it 69-67 with just under two minutes left.
The Gamecocks forced Brown to miss a jumper before Mitchell put them up by five with a corner three-pointer with about 1:15 left -- on a play that Staley said will be renamed "Mitch" after her. "Tiffany Mitchell is the person we want the ball in her hands when we need a basket," Staley said.