Spring 2021 Magazine

Coach Dawn Staley shares Scripture, leads South Carolina women to SEC Tournament title

South Carolina is officially the champion of the SEC for the second year in a row and the sixth time in the last seven years. Led by head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks slipped past No. 16 Georgia, 67-62, on Sunday in Greenville, South Carolina, to capture the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament title.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Leading the way for South Carolina was sophomore forward Aliyah Boston with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, and junior guard Destanni Henderson with 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The game featured nine first-half lead changes and was tied at 35 at halftime. After building a nine-point advantage toward the end of the third quarter, the Gamecocks held off a Bulldog rally to pull out the victory.

“I’m tired, honestly. This one was kind of draining because we had to really fight,” Staley said in her postgame press conference. “You gotta fight for all of them, but this one was a little different in bringing a young team in here that was trying to find its identity to play a certain way — the grittiness that you need to win three games in a row — and to do it against incredible competition.

“But the SEC prepares you for this grueling weekend, and I’m happy that we found our way on top.”

The win gives South Carolina a 22-4 record on the season and a strong case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks were the No. 1 team in the nation before losses to No. 2 UConn, No. 21 Tennessee and No. 3 Texas A&M in February.

After winning the tournament, Staley gave God the glory on social media:

In the hours leading up to the contest, Staley tweeted a photo of her gameday devotional, which quoted the Bible verse Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”

The devotional also quoted John Lewis, a former member of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia who died last July and was active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” Lewis was quoted as saying.

Staley often shares a photo of her gameday devotional on social media as part of her pre-game routine. Each devotional highlights a different Scripture verse.

Staley, who was a two-time Naismith College Player of the Year (1991, 1992) and six-time WNBA All-Star, became South Carolina’s head coach in 2008. The program has found unprecedented success under her leadership, appearing in the program’s only two Final Fours (2015, 2017) and winning the program’s only national championship in 2017.

Next up for Staley’s South Carolina squad is the NCAA Tournament, set to be played at sites in and around San Antonio from March 21 to April 4. The Gamecocks will be strong contenders to take home their second NCAA Tournament title in the last five years.

The women’s NCAA selection show is set for 7 p.m. ET on Monday, March 15.

RELATED STORIES:
NEW PODCAST: Chelsea Newton – Georgia Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach
Paige Bueckers drawing confidence from God as she leads No. 1 UConn
MAGAZINE: Las Vegas’ Kelsey Plum and A’ja Wilson are Aces in the faith
Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson wins AP’s WNBA Player of the Year honors
NEW PODCAST: Natalie Chou – UCLA women’s basketball player