The best news for Georgia State women’s basketball at the end of the season happened when South Alabama’s Savannah Jones was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
The Curse is someone else’s problem.
Georgia State had a disappointing year, going just 8-22. They went 4-14 in conference play, earned a tenth seed, and was sent home in the first round of the Sun Belt conference tournament with a 72-55 loss to Coastal Carolina.
In the aftermath, Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb waited a week to announce that head coach Sharon Baldwin’s contract would not be renewed, ending her tenure. After eight seasons, she mustered a record of 88-152. The most wins in one campaign was thirteen (achieved twice). As of this writing, no new coach had been appointed nor has any names been floated as possibilities.
Getting back to The Curse. In the two previous seasons, a Panther won the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year (Madison Newby and Jada Lewis, respectively). And in the following season, both missed 90% of the year due to injuries and took medical redshirts, preserving their eligibility.
It’s enough for Coach Baldwin to believe she was snake bit.
Even worse, Shay Fluker, a JUCO transfer, went down with a stress fracture after the Georgia Southern game on January 20. She finished the year in a walking boot. Before her injury, she was one of the players stepping in for Lewis. She averaged just under fourteen a game, and had 24 in a win over Allen, then followed that up with 25 in a victory over North Greenville.
The injuries weren’t limited to the backcourt. Francesca Minali, a junior from Stezzano in Italy, sprained an ankle just as the second half started at Texas State in late February. She had a stretch of six games where she averaged eleven boards, with 18 rebounds in a game with Georgia Southern. After the injury, Minali missed the next game and played the remaining three but wasn’t the same. She and Fluker led the team in rebounds.
With players falling like flies, Coach Baldwin had to rely even more on those left standing. Newby, Kierra Henry, Janessa Murphy, and KK Williams all averaged over thirty minutes playing time in conference games. Newby and Murphy ranked in the top five in the Sun Belt in minutes per game.
Henry, a junior, stepped up to provide the scoring punch. She led the team in total points with 426. It was more than in her two previous years combined. If she has a similar performance next season, it would put her over 1,000 in her Panther career. Her biggest explosions were against Troy. She had 28 in a New Year’s Eve tilt, and then 25 at the Sports Arena in a 75-68 win, the biggest Georgia State victory this season.
Murphy proved to be an outside threat, hitting 39% on three-pointers. She also had 25 in both performances against Troy. Newby distributed effectively, handing out more assists than committing turnovers, something that plagued her freshman year.
While the backcourt held its’ own, the frontcourt couldn’t say the same, at least from a scoring standpoint. Freshman Deja Mitchell led the forwards and centers in scoring, with 4.4. The performances from the rest were spotty. Juliet James had 17 rebounds at UT-Arlington and in the season finale Shaq Miller-McCray had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Except for Minali’s rebound streak, nobody was consistent in the middle. The guards picked up the slack, so the rebounding margins wasn’t that bad.
Georgia State had some close calls. James missed a free throw with two seconds left that would’ve cinched a win against UT-Arlington. The Panthers couldn’t hold on in overtime. In the finale against South Alabama, Georgia State had the ball down by one but couldn’t get a good final shot off. If those results were flipped, the Panthers would’ve moved up to the ninth slot and drew Arkansas State in the tourney. The Red Wolves got bit by the injury bug before the tourney as forward Akasha Westbrook suffered a broken foot. Arkansas State was hurt rebounding, and Appalachian State bounced the Red Wolves. Georgia State might have gotten a victory as well.
The coaching situation is the question mark heading to the offseason, but the Panthers have no seniors. What they do have is hopefully everyone getting healthy and several players joining the team after serving an NCAA transfer year. Walnatia Wright is the interesting story. She comes from Texas A&M, is 6-2, and could be that dominant middle the Panthers missed after Tiffany Holston graduated. Alison Johnson, from Kennesaw State, played at Norcross High and won several state titles. She could also lend a hand in rebounding. The other eligible transfer is Kiersten Hunter, from Parkview in Lilburn. She’s out of Trevecca College and will back be another presence in the backcourt.
Carly Winters is the lone incoming freshman. The Player of the Year from Region 7 of 3A, the graduate of East Hall once had 42 points, including 12 three-pointers, in a victory over North Hall. She appears to be a point machine, but with a lot of guards on the Panther squad, her transition to Division I basketball can afford to be drawn out.
Depth should no longer be a concern next season. If everyone returns, players that were called on to log 35-40 a night can go say, 25-30, and thus be fresher in the late stages. Getting Lewis back is vital. There was a reason she was named Freshman of the Year, and a backcourt of her and Newby would make any coach salivate.
Last season, Georgia State never led a game wire to wire, and being sure they were ready in the fourth quarter may have had something to do with it. Now that the Curse is South Alabama’s problem, the Panthers might finally be able to move up in the Sun Belt standings.
If not, a good exorcism might be in order.

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