Playing for pink

Georgia State splits the series with Arkansas State, 1-1, after losing 75-80 on Saturday.  Photo by Andres Cruz

Georgia State splits the series with Arkansas State, 1-1, after losing 75-80 on Saturday.
Photo by Andres Cruz

Georgia State played a high-stakes matchup against No. 1 Arkansas State at home in the annual Play 4Kay game on Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers (10-12 overall, 6-4 conference) were No. 2 in the conference and had a chance to take first in the Sun Belt with a victory but came up short.Despite the Panthers losing 80-75, they were playing for a cause. The game was a step closer to making the late North Carolina State (NC State) women’s basketball head coach Kay Yow’s dream a reality.

Coach Kay’s dream

Coach Kay Yow’s dream was for every women’s basketball team to do a “pink game,” according to Brenda H. Steen, director of Marketing & Development 4Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

Steen worked with NC State in 2005; at the time Yow was battling breast cancer.

A pink game is typically a game where both teams and fans are encouraged to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness.

Steen said collectively the more people who do these pink games, the more breast cancer research funding they can raise and that it’s exactly what coach Yow wanted.

Play 4Kay

In the Georgia State-Arkansas State Play 4Kay game, the Panthers wore a variation of their home uniform with the red stripes in their jerseys being replaced by pink stripes.

Off the court, the gym was a sea of pink with majority of the fans on both teams and the Pantherettes donning pink.

“I think everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer,” said Georgia State women’s basketball head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener. “If it is not a close relative, it’s a friend or someone in your church or someone at work…it is good that we can try to help that cause and bring more awareness and more funding for the needed research.”

Meanwhile, Georgia State honored alum Mary Gilbert, a 17-year breast cancer survivor, during halftime of the game.

Gilbert graduated from the then-Georgia State College of Business Administration (now-J. Mack Robinson College of Business) in 1981 with a BBA in accounting. She is now a retired accountant.

How it all started

“We decided to do a pink game, and [Kay] wanted to give people an opportunity to celebrate survivorship and also remind women and their families how important it is to take care of your body,” Steen said.This idea led to the first “Hoops For Hope” event that took place at NC State in 2006.

Steen said after the second Hoops For Hope game, more colleges started doing them and fabricated nicknames such as “pink games,” among other names.

“Coach Yow started the [Kay Yow Cancer] fund in 2007, and they quickly realize that they needed a name to unite all of these colleges who are playing for Kay,” Steen said. “That’s where ‘Play 4Kay’ came about.”

Unfortunately, Coach Yow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and passed away in 2009.

“The reason [Play 4Kay] is so successful because [Kay] was a fantastic person,” Steen said. “People miss her and it’s a way for people to show how much they care about her.”

Just out of reach

The last time the Panthers played No. 1 Arkansas State was on Jan. 14 at the ASU Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark., where they upset the Red Wolves, 76-74.

Unfortunately for Georgia State, there was no upset this time around.

The Panthers were down 33-35 at the half and could not regain the lead they had early.

They were unable to capitalize on a tied score but managed to cut the score down 78-75 with 43 seconds left in the game.

Unfortunately, free throws sealed the Panthers’ fate as they lost 80-75.

“It’s tough for both teams with just two officials and that changes some things and some calls, but it happens and you go on since it affects both teams,” Baldwin-Tener said to Georgia State Athletics.

“We get too many fouls on our post players and it hurts our defense. But if you look at stat sheets at the end of any game and you see almost a 2-to-1 free-throw difference, the team with the most free throws probably wins,” the women’s head coach said.

The Panthers dropped to third in the conference, and their next game is Wednesday at home against Texas State at 7 p.m.