PG Aniyah Oliver

Senior point guard Aniyah Oliver will be counted on heavily to help control tempo in games this winter. She’s been on two state championship teams.

Tim Baldwin heads into his 19th season as Goose Creek High School’s girls basketball coach and he’s seen a lot of summers with the Lady Gators.

He called this summer the most important one since the very first one nearly two decades ago.

Goose Creek replaces seven seniors — five who will play in college — and another projected starter, junior forward Rachel Davis, transferred out to play for her father at Summerville High School. Adding to the losses, some junior varsity players Baldwin was looking at contributing on varsity this winter decided not to play.

Baldwin’s team went into the summer seeking a solid fifth starter and has no proven depth.

“We’ve always had some serious depth but we just don’t have that right now,” said Baldwin, who won his 400th game and third state championship in 2018-19. “We’ve got some young ones who are going to have to learn on the move. We’re going to have to play smart, control the tempo and stay out of foul trouble when we play really good teams. We’re not going to be able to get in foul trouble and just send the next one in like we have.”

Last season, the Lady Gators went 23-1 and edged Spring Valley High School for the Class 5A title, their second in three years. They have to replace five of their top six scorers and rebounders. The core of the group was 95-8 in four years and never lost a region game.

Four seniors are the cornerstones as Goose Creek presses forward with a 68-game winning streak against region foes.

Baldwin is comfortable with his starting backcourt. He knows what to expect from senior guards Aniyah Oliver (8.3 PPG, 3.6 APG) and Kolia Adams (5 PPG, 2.1 SPG). The emergence of another senior since the championship game in March might help to soften the blow in the frontcourt.

Senior center Janise Shaw averaged less than two points and two rebounds in less than five minutes a game as a junior. Three of the four players in front of her signed to play in college so she’s waited her turn behind a talented group.

“I expected those rising seniors to come back and play well,” Baldwin said, “but Janise has really come a long way. We’re used to having a big who can run the floor, catch in traffic and finish. She’s stepped right in. I’m expecting a really big year from her.”

Senior Jakara Johnson is the projected starter at small forward. Like Shaw, she was a role player in 2018-19.

The older players have done their part to get the younger ones up to speed. It’s been a process and figures to carry into the start of the regular season in November. The rising freshmen have some raw talent but will take some lumps.

“Our senior class still has a lot of experience and talent,” Baldwin said. “The biggest thing is finding that fifth player and some depth. I really like the way the senior class has shown leadership, teaching these young kids exactly what’s going on. They’re taking those freshmen under their wings. They know they’re going to need them down the road.”

Baldwin’s team went to Charlotte, Columbia International, Dorman High School and Summerville High School and hosted some games in June. He said the Lady Gators won most of the “20 or so games” they played in the summer.

“We held our own,” Baldwin said. “I’m hoping by January we’ll have some questions answered.”