South Carolina coach Dawn Staley reveals message to Kamilla Cardoso before epic game-winner vs. Tennessee

Kamilla Cardoso’s family was at the game all the way from Brazil to witness her first three-pointer.

In a dramatic turn of events, South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley made a last-minute call that would cement Kamilla Cardoso’s place in Gamecock lore.

As the seconds ticked away against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals on Saturday, Staley knew that Te-Hina Paopao, their usual go-to for an outside shot, was well-covered. With their perfect season on the line, Staley implored 6-foot-7 Cardoso to take the shot she had always hesitated to attempt. The result? A banked-in three-pointer at the buzzer, giving No. 1 South Carolina a nail-biting 74-73 win and preserving their undefeated record.

This shot was not just any buzzer-beater; it was Cardoso’s first three-pointer, having attempted only one long-range shot since her freshman year at Syracuse. The decision came in a split-second.

“I knew with the players we had on the floor, pretty much the only person who was going to be open was Kamilla,” Staley said, per the Associated Press. “So I just told Raven (Johnson) to get the ball to Kamilla. And I told Kamilla, ‘Hey, pass it to Paopao,’ and then at the last second I was like, ‘Kamilla, shoot it.’”

“I added a couple more words that I can’t mention,” Staley added.

The command from the sideline was clear as Johnson fed the ball to Cardoso, who, despite her reservations throughout her career, launched the decisive shot with confidence. It was a surreal moment, especially for Cardoso, who was cheered on by her family who had traveled from Brazil for the occasion.

“I was very happy my teammates believed in me,” Cardoso said. “I didn’t have best game I could have, off all night. I was happy I could make the shot and take them to the finals.”

This game was a testament to South Carolina’s resilience. After leading by 23 points and then seeing the Lady Vols storm back to take a late lead, the Gamecocks were staring at the brink of their first loss. But fate had other plans as Jasmine Powell of Tennessee missed two crucial free throws, setting the stage for Cardoso.

The victory propels South Carolina into their ninth tournament final in ten seasons, aiming for their eighth title, with a game against LSU set for Sunday. It will be a rematch of this season’s nail-biter between the two SEC powerhouses.

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About the Author

Erin Achenbach is the Lead Women’s Sports Editor at ClutchPoints, championing women’s sports coverage and media representation. Originally from Dallas, she graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 2017. Now residing in St. Louis, the lifelong Texas Rangers fan has spent the past five years covering community news, and avoiding any Cardinals fans who remind her about Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

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