SOUTH CAROLINA coach Dawn Staley climbed the ladder, snipped the final strand of net and raised it as thousands of garnet-clad fans cheered.

Taking in the scene, she mouthed one word: "Unbelievable."

Believe it. Staley and the Gamecocks are headed to their first Final Four.

Tiffany Mitchell scored seven of her 21 points in the final 2 minutes, and South Carolina beat Florida State, yesterday, 80-74, in the Greensboro Regional final.

"It put South Carolina on the map," Staley said. "The regular season that we had, the success that we've had in [the Southeastern] Conference, when you hurdle over being a regional champion and going to the Final Four, it puts your name in history. So it was a history-making game for us."

Alaina Coates finished with 14 points, A'ja Wilson added 10 and Asia Dozier hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds for the top-seeded Gamecocks (34-2).

Playing from behind for most of the day, they shot 61 percent while rallying to win their seventh straight and keep the best season in school history going.

Next stop: Tampa, Florida, to face the Oklahoma City Regional winner, Notre Dame, on April 5.

"I just remember [Saturday] night watching the Kentucky men doing it, and thinking, 'That could be us tomorrow afternoon,' '' Mitchell said. "To actually be in this moment and experience it means a lot."

Leticia Romero scored 13 points and Brittany Brown had 12 for the second-seeded Seminoles (32-5). The best season in program history ended after they set the school record for wins and reached their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

In another game

* At Oklahoma City, Lindsay Allen scored 23 points to help top-seeded Notre Dame (35-2) defeat Baylor, 77-68, in the Oklahoma City regional final and reach its fifth consecutive Final Four.

Allen, who scored a career-high 28 points in the regional semifinal win over Stanford on Friday, followed that by making 10 of 16 shots and dropping seven assists. She was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional.