All weekend long, Gamecock fans crowded Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville to support the South Carolina women's basketball team during the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks used that big homecourt advantage to help capture their third straight SEC Tournament Championship on March 5.
In close games against Kentucky in the semifinals and Mississippi State in the title game, the Gamecocks fed off the energy to start games fast, and then used the crowd energy to close out both games.
"We got behind the crowd that was really loud and proud," head coach Dawn Staley said after the Gamecocks defeated Kentucky in the semifinals.
That was the story of the tournament for the Gamecocks. The fans were more than happy to show their support, and everyone enjoyed the weekend.
"It's a great feeling," Gamecock women's basketball great Sheila Foster said. "It just brings back a lot of memories from when I was playing."
Foster is the program's career leading scorer and rebounder, and was in Greenville to watch the Gamecocks win another championship. As a former player, Foster knows how important a great crowd can be.
"That's a great advantage," Foster said. "It's a step ahead of the game. When you have something like this, you take advantage of it."
Take advantage of it South Carolina did, even while fighting through adversity. Double-double machine Alaina Coates missed the quarterfinal win over Georgia, but returned for the semifinal game. However, the senior re-aggravated her ankle injury late in the game against the Wildcats, and was forced to sit out for the championship game.
With any championship team, it's important to have role players who can step in and contribute when one of the starters goes down.
"We have to have someone to fill in," Foster said. "Everyone knows we need Alaina, but someone has to step up."
For the Gamecocks, freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan did a great job filling in for Coates. She went through her growing pains earlier in the season, but really matured later in the year and during the SEC Tournament.
Thanks to players like Herbert Harrigan stepping up and the great crowd support, the Gamecocks came out on top once again. The amazing support over the weekend was not lost on the players.
"We have amazing fans," said A'ja Wilson, the SEC Tournament MVP. "They're really loyal and really help us out. They are that sixth man out there. Just to hear them roaring and our ears ringing, it really does get your blood flowing."
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**