So close. One basket. But just because the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team didn’t win its first NCAA Final Four game doesn’t make it a loser.
The hard-fought contest in Tampa, Fla., Sunday was a lot more than a heart-breaking 66-65 point loss. It was a chance for viewers across the country to see the Gamecock women’s resilience, drive and skill.
It was a chance for South Carolinians to take pride in some of our own. Eight of the players are from South Carolina. The captain, Aleighsa Welch, a graduate of Goose Creek High School, grabbed 14 rebounds and scored 10 points.
It was the end of the best season in South Carolina women’s basketball history — its first time in the Final Four.
In contrast, this was the fifth straight Final Four for Notre Dame, the victor in the nail-biter of a game.
For all but the very end of the game, the Gamecocks trailed the Irish by as much as 12 points. But USC had some experience in coming back from behind. It beat the University of North Carolina by two points in the Sweet Sixteen after being down by eight.
And before that, USC was in a 12-point hole when it came back to beat Florida State. Perseverance and grit are useful in all walks of life.
Miss Welch will graduate this year, but the heart, grit and perseverance demonstrated by the team as a whole bodes well for next year. We should all keep our eyes on Coach Dawn Staley and her Gamecocks.
They did, after all, make history and come within one basket of making the championship game.
And in their fabulous regular season and post-season run, they raised the profile of women’s basketball to a new high in South Carolina.