GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Someday, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley will eventually rename a play after star guard Tiffany Mitchell.
But the Gamecocks aren’t changing anything just yet.
They might have to run it again — at their first Final Four.
Mitchell scored 21 points and made all the key plays down the stretch to help South Carolina beat Florida State 80-74 on Sunday in the Greensboro Regional final.
Mitchell reeled off seven consecutive points, putting the Gamecocks ahead to stay and then extending that lead to five points by hitting a 3-pointer on the play that Staley says will someday be called “Mitch.”
“Tiffany Mitchell is the person we want the ball in her hands when we need a basket,” Staley said.
Alaina Coates, the regional’s most outstanding player, 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 on April 5.
“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.”
Leticia Romero scored 13 points and Brittany Brown had 12 for the second-seeded Seminoles (32-5). The best season in program history ended after they set the school record for wins and reached their first Atlantic Coast Conference 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 2 minutes left.
The Gamecocks forced Brown to miss a jumper before Mitchell put them up by five with a corner 3-pointer with about 1:15 remaining.
Maegan Conwright pulled Florida State to 72-69 with two free throws with 58.3 seconds left. Mitchell then got the rebound of her missed jumper in the lane, drew a foul and hit both free throws with 27.9 seconds left to restore the Gamecocks’ five-point lead.
Dozier’s free throws each came immediately after Florida State pulled within two points, and Khadijah Sessions stole the ball from Conwright and hit a layup at the buzzer to make it a six-point game.
Adut Bulgak finished with 10 points for Florida State, which never trailed during the first 30 minutes of this meeting of teams that until now had combined to reach two Elite Eights but had advanced no deeper.
South Carolina lost to Duke in a 2002 regional final and Florida State fell to Connecticut at this stage in 2010.
“To play that many minutes leading … the No. 1 team in the country at one point, they weren’t afraid,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said of her team. “They had so much courage.”
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