By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published marzo 6, 2009 | Available In English
The St. Pius X Golden Lions girls varsity basketball team won a second state championship since 2004 by defeating Marist School’s team with a score of 56-38 in the Class AAAA finals at the Gwinnett Center Arena March 3. This was the first match-up between the two Atlanta Catholic school programs in a final game for the state varsity girls basketball title.
It all came about when each team pulled off a decisive victory in its state semifinal game on March 1. The semifinals took place on the first day of Lent, and some of the St. Pius players were marked with ashen crosses on their foreheads as the team, dressed out in their white home uniforms, carried out a 54-41 defeat of Gray, Georgia’s Jones County High School. St. Pius was led by junior center Kelley Cain who finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 7 blocked shots and 2 steals.
The Marist girls made history in the school’s illustrious sports program by reaching the state semifinals for the first time ever. Marist advanced to the finals after a 51- 33 rout over Greenbrier High School of Evans. Junior forward Drey Mingo and senior guard Kristine Gleason led the way with 21 and 13 points, respectively. By the middle of the fourth quarter some Marist students could be seen with posters chanting, “We Want Pius!”
The championship game had all the makings of a clash reminiscent of the ones between North Carolina and Duke or Villanova and Georgetown—but the big drama wasn’t meant to be. When Marist standout Mingo got into early foul trouble in the first quarter, she had to leave the game and watch from the sidelines. From that point on the Lady War Eagles struggled on offense and had no answer for St. Pius’ Cain, who finished with 18 points, 23 rebounds, 8 blocked shots and 1 steal, her third consecutive “double-double.” Starting senior forward Jane Fleming has been associated with the St. Pius basketball program since seventh grade. Fleming said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out, winning the state championship and beating our biggest rival.”
During the 2003-2004 season, her second as head coach, Stephanie Dunn took St. Pius to its first state championship. Her fourth coaching season proved a banner season as well. Not only did her team win the state title, but they also won their fifth consecutive regional title. Dunn said, “This victory (the state final) was one of the most exciting in my career. We were never the favorites because of our young guards.” St. Pius only lost two games all season, but these were back-to-back losses in mid January, just four days apart. Dunn said, “That really showed the character of the team and its ability to regroup and come back. I love this team and their personality.”
St. Pius’ team will only graduate three seniors, one starter and two “subs,” which makes the team a strong contender to defend its crown during the 2006-2007 season.