A parade was held on Main street Wednesday night to celebrate the South Carolina women’s basketball team’s second national championship victory alongside thousands of fans.
The Gamecocks earned the championship title with a 64-49 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies in Minneapolis on April 3.
"I think it's an awesome thing," said Bill Fuller, a sales manager for Excel Truck Group in Columbia. "They deserve it. They went out there. They worked hard and played together well."
There were more than 60 cars, trucks and floats in the parade with members of the women's basketball program arriving towards the end to to take their place on the South Carolina Statehouse steps.
Speeches were given by Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, Congressman Jim Clyburn, USC interim university President Harris Pastides, Athletics Director Ray Tanner and head coach Dawn Staley.
"These young women won the hearts and minds of people throughout America. They were and are America's team," Pastides said.
Every player was on hand for the parade except senior guard Destanni Henderson, who was unable to make it due to being drafted by the WNBA's Indiana Fever on Monday night. Henderson, the team's leading scorer from the national championship game, received a large ovation during the team introduction.
Staley was awarded the key to the city by Rickenmann and declared the entirety of April to be "national championship month."
"Being the number one team in the country at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, so often you don't finish the job," Staley said. "And we couldn't finish the job without having the complete support from the very top."
Staley said the love she's received from the community "really resonates with me."
"I'm a Philly girl, I don't get emotional, but you make me emotional. And I really appreciate it," Staley said. "It's worth everything that we had to go through. I know we made it look easy, but it really wasn't easy."
Staley recognized senior forward Victaria Saxton and junior guard Brea Beal with special gifts from the team's "FAMs," celebrating their accomplishments as veteran players who do not receive national notoriety.
During his remarks, Tanner said it was an understatement to say how talented the women's basketball team is and called Staley "the greatest of all time."
"We all believed that we would be here. We had the confidence, we had the expectation, but it still takes a team and when a team is together everyone accomplishes more," Tanner said.
Clyburn announced the team will be visiting the White House in the coming weeks to be received by the President of the United States, Joe Biden.
"Be sure not to schedule it on a day when Congress is not in session," Clyburn said. "Please do it when I'm going to be there."
Clyburn presented the team with certificates from the congressional record, where they were recognized as national champions on April 6.
"Not only did you win a national title, you won the hearts of the entire country," Clyburn said.
Before the end of the celebration, Staley had a final message for the fanbase.
"Let's run it back," Staley said.