Published March 25, 2004
On Friday, March 5, the St. Pius X High School girls’ basketball team put the icing on a magical season by winning the first state championship in the program’s history against Columbus High School.
The second-ranked Lady Lions went into the championship game at the Gwinnett Arena and immediately set to work at what they do best, scoring the game’s first 12 points.
Columbus stayed within striking distance and gave St. Pius a run for the money in the second half, and with 1:32 left in the game, Columbus went up by one. St. Pius responded with the next six points.
With only 45 seconds left in the game, Columbus rallied with a three-point shot that cut the Golden Lions’ lead to only two. Junior Katie Kulavic and senior Whitney Morgan each made free throws to provide the final score of 63-59.
Led by Coach Stephanie Dunn, recently named Coach of the Year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Golden Lions had a memorable season by any measure. The team not only won the state title and finished the season with a 29-3 record, they also won their Christmas Classic tournament, the region championship, and they dominated the Class AAAA playoffs. The team easily put away Ridgeland (54-41), North Atlanta (87-56), Rockdale County (78-51), and Kendrick (63-39) to claim their berth in the title game.
Dunn said that the season far exceeded even her expectations.
“I knew there were some good teams out there and I never expected to dominate the way we did,” she said. She did, however, wonder how those teams would stand up against the Golden Lions’ full-court pressure defense over the course of an entire game. “When I scouted those teams, none of them went against a defense like ours for a whole game.”
In a season filled with “firsts,” there was another memorable event that added to the list. On Dec. 6, Dunn gave birth to her first child, a baby girl, Kara. She missed 13 games during the season, with former head coach Ron Sattele filling in during her leave.
Coach Dunn credits her entire team with the remarkable season and the final victory for the title.
“This is a competitive group of girls and when we set our goals at the beginning of the year, we set the bar high, with the state title as the ultimate goal,” said Dunn. Although 6-foot 4-inch freshman center Kelley Cain caused a sensation among fans, rivals, and the media, Dunn says that it was the effort of the whole team that led to the prize.
“I knew we wouldn’t win it all unless we distributed the ball and had several girls score in double digits,” she said.
That’s exactly what happened in the final game, with Katie Kulavic scoring 17 points, junior Joi Adams scoring 17 points, and Cain scoring a game-high 18 points. Cain scored in double figures in each game of the playoffs and Katie Kulavic scored 31 points in the final four game a day earlier. Added to the scoring was the tenacious defense of junior Karrie Kulavic and senior Whitney Morgan.
Cain and Katie Kulavic were both recently named to the All-Area Girls team by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Dunn’s players give her a “thumbs up” for her coaching style. Known for her discipline and demands on her players, especially on defense, Dunn also expects her players to have fun while playing the game.
In her second year as head coach, Dunn says she is grateful to the team and their parents for the quality of their dedication during their quest for the title.
The Golden Lions will be a factor to contend with next season as they return four of their five starters, losing only Whitney Morgan to graduation. For now, the team is savoring its victory, taking pride in a job “well Dunn.”
St. Pius X Golden Lions 2003-2004
Joi Adams: junior, guard
Kelley Cain: freshman, center
Katie Kulavic: junior, guard
Karrie Kulavic: junior, guard
Jane Fleming: sophomore, guard
Lauren Guidot: sophomore, forward
Rebecca Holmes: sophomore, forward
Rebecca House: junior, guard
Molly McCarthy: sophomore, guard
Whitney Morgan: senior, forward
Ashley Page: senior, forward
Jena Perriatt: senior, guard
Katherine Williams: freshman, forward
St. Pius X Golden Lion Coaches
Stephanie Dunn: Head Coach
Merritt Misner: Assistant Coach
Bridget McKay: Assistant Coach
Joyce Patterson: Assistant Coach