GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Tiffany Mitchell drove to the basket and scored with 4.2 seconds left and South Carolina edged North Carolina 67-65 on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.
Mitchell finished with 18 points for the No. 1-seeded Gamecocks (33-2), who had to fight the entire way to push past UNC in a rematch of last year's Sweet 16 game and advance to the Greensboro Region final.
Alaina Coates also scored 18 points, including two key free throws for the lead with 46.1 seconds to go. Then Mitchell, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, answered a tying basket from Jessica Washington in the final minute by driving past Brittany Rountree for what turned out to be the winning score.
Fourth-seeded UNC (26-9) had one more chance, but freshman Jamie Cherry's desperation runner hit all backboard as the horn sounded, sending the Gamecocks into an oncourt celebration.
South Carolina had reached the Elite Eight only once before, losing to Duke in 2002. Now Dawn Staley's Gamecocks are back to face the Arizona State-Florida State winner on Sunday to go to the Final Four.
Latifah Coleman scored 10 of her 15 after halftime for North Carolina, which led 63-60 with about 90 seconds left but couldn't quite close out the Gamecocks.
The teams met in nearly this exact situation last year, though on the opposite coast at Stanford. The Gamecocks entered as a No. 1 seed while the Tar Heels were a No. 4 then, too, but UNC won 65-58 behind star freshman Diamond DeShields to end the Gamecocks' 29-win season.
This time, they were both much closer to home. And while the game was in the Tar Heels' home state roughly an hour from the Chapel Hill campus, the Gamecocks had a larger and louder group of fans in the building for this one.
They were treated to a tense finish, one that very nearly ended in a repeat of last year's disappointment.
Olivia Gaines hit a contested 3-pointer that bounced around the rim and dropped through to tie the game at 63 at the 1-minute mark.
Then, after a missed 3 from Washington led to a foul on Stephanie Mavunga while battling for a rebound, Coates hit two free throws with 46.1 seconds left to put the Gamecocks back ahead.
Washington answered with a tough drive to tie it again with 27.2 seconds left only to see Mitchell come up with the winner.
UNC: Allisha Gray scored 12 points, while Stephanie Mavunga had 10 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out while battling Coates underneath in the final minute. ... UNC shot 37 percent. ... UNC made 11 of 14 free throws after halftime.
South Carolina: Tiny Roy scored 12, including three second-half 3-pointers. ... Gaines' tying 3 was her only basket. ... The Gamecocks shot 52 percent after halftime.
South Carolina plays the Arizona State-Florida State winner Sunday.