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South Carolina, Staley honored with downtown parade

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 03: The South Carolina Gamecocks bench prepares to run onto the court as time expires against the UConn Huskies during the championship game of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Target Center on April 3, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Ethan Mito/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

NCAA Photos via Getty Images

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Thousands of fans filled the streets of downtown Columbia for a celebration of South Carolina’s second women’s basketball national championship Wednesday.

The Gamecocks won the title with a 64-49 victory over UConn in Minneapolis on April 3.

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, her players and staff rode on cars, floats and trucks to South Carolina’s Statehouse where they were honored by officials. There were more than 60 vehicles in the parade.

Staley thanked her “FAMS,” who have helped the program once more lead the country at 12,268 fans per home game.

Staley, riding in a white convertible Rolls Royce, signed T-shirts and took selfies with people lined up along the route.

“How much you love us, really resonates with me,” she said at the podium.

Columbia Mayor Daniel J. Rickenmann and the city council proclaimed April as “South Carolina national championship” month.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) told the team they would be honored at the White House in a few weeks. “You’ll be received by the president of the United States,” Clyburn said.

When the Gamecocks won the NCAA Tournament in 2017, a White House invitation didn’t come until months later, after South Carolina had started fall practice. Staley declined the invite, saying she was totally focused on the upcoming season.

Interim university President Harris Pastides called it the “Dawn of a new dynasty.”

He told the crowd to be proud of Staley, who “has done more for gender equity and for equality in women’s athletics than anyone in modern history.”

Staley closed by saying, “Let’s run it back” with another title next season as the fans cheered.