Gamecock fans, local businesses prepare for Final Four showdown
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS)- As the number-one ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team gets set for a Final Four matchup with the University of Louisville in Minneapolis on Friday night, the excitement is palpable in the Midlands.
Local stores have the gear to help fans celebrate and cheer on the team in their quest for a championship, and many Gamecock fans and alumni were out and about on Thursday.
At Addams Gamecock Gear on Assembly Street in Columbia, there was plenty of anticipation from fans. Some were even grabbing last-minute merchandise before flying to Minneapolis to see the women play.
Ken Halstead, Addams Gamecock Gear store manager, said this is a great environment to work in year-round, but tournament time is something special.
“Nothing can eclipse the excitement that comes along when a program reaches a level that the Lady Gamecocks have and are playing for the national championship,” he said.
Roger Wiley went to grad school at UofSC and is flying to Minnesota for the Final Four showdown this weekend.
He’s also an AAU coach, and current Gamecock senior forward Elysa Wesolek played for him.
“We love watching the Gamecocks, we’re proud to be fellow Gamecocks, and we’re just looking forward to supporting them in their quest to get to the championship game and be successful,” Wiley said. “It’s like a homecoming for me.”
Wiley said the team’s success means a lot deal to the community.
“I can remember watching the games and there was hardly anyone in the [Carolina] Coliseum at all, and now that Dawn Staley has been there you can see that the community has been galvanized by it, it’s full of excitement,” he said. “It’s bringing people together in many ways, even people who don’t play basketball, even with little kids coming in and doing their dance routines and gymnastics routines, it just builds a lot of community.”
For UofSC senior Kaitlyn McCue, cheering on coach Staley’s group has become a family affair.
“I grew up in a super small town, didn’t have that like SEC-vibe, never had that super excitement in our little small town down home so I’ve had my parents calling me over and over again after every single game,” she said. “They’re like ‘You have to go get me a t-shirt.’ So that’s why I have all of this right now. My parents, everybody back home, everybody is super excited. But I think senior year, you know, we’re really ending it with a bang and I’m super excited to see what happens.”
McCue said she’s most excited to see the reaction from fans if the Gamecocks reach the ultimate goal because “Columbia knows how to party.”
As for Final Four predictions, McCue said, “We’re going to win, I’m just going to leave it at that. Like we are going to win. I’m convinced.”
“We expect the Gamecocks to win,” Wiley said.
“Well I mean I might be biased but I’m going to say we’re going to win,” Lindsay Hammer, the retail manager at Barefoot Columbia on Lincoln Street, said.
“I think the Gamecocks are going to ultimately win out,” Halstead said. “The first step is going to be Friday night and here we’ve got two birds fighting each other, the Cardinals and the Gamecocks. What the Cardinals have forgotten is that the Gamecocks have spurs, and it’s going to be a spurs up night this Friday night.”
Hammer said the continued success of the women’s basketball program corresponds with increased demand at Barefoot Columbia.
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