Class 5A blog: Losing nine seniors doesn’t slow streaking St. Pius boys

Losing nine seniors on a basketball team doesn’t typically mean there are good things ahead. That’s not the case at St. Pius, where coach Aaron Parr has built a program that just seems to reload each year.

The Golden Lions have done it again. After going 24-4 in 2020-21, they are off to a 13-2 start and remain unbeaten in the challenging Region 5 race. St. Pius reached the state semifinals last season, losing to Tri-Cities in overtime. This season they’re ranked No. 2 -- behind defending state champion Eagle’s Landing and one slot ahead of Tri-Cities.

Although the loses were heavy, Parr was convinced this team would not suffer a huge drop.

“What we did have were some kids who had played a little and I knew had a chance to be really good,” Parr said. “There were some who played a lot last year and some that didn’t because they were behind seniors, but I knew they were good. They just needed an opportunity and they’re getting it this year and they’re really making the most of it.”

The team’s top returner is Eamonn Kenah, a versatile 6-foot-5 senior who was an all-region selection last year. Kenah averages 15 points per game and should be worthy of all-state mentions when the season is over.

“We knew he would be somebody we’d really need,” Parr said. “And we knew that on paper he was going to be really good and he’s having a very good year. He leads us in scoring and what’s really great about him is he can score in so many different ways.”

The most improved player is 6-foot-9 junior Spencer Elliott. With all COVID quarantines last year, along with a nagging ankle injury, Elliott didn’t get to play as much and never got going. This year he’s living up to the lofty expectations.

“We knew he was going to be good and starting for us,” Parr said. “He can score inside and step out and hit the 3s.”

Elliott is second on the team in scoring (12.8 points) and leads the Lions in rebounds and blocks. He already has one Div. I offer, with more expected.

Point guard Blake Wilson “has been awesome,” Parr said. “He’s been the missing link. He may be our best defender, he scores, he rebounds, he assists. He does a little bit of everything and he’s really tough and tenacious.” Wilson averages 12.5 points.

Devin Portee is an experienced senior guard who is starting for the first time. Grant Rowe is a strong from the perimeter --- he leads the team in 3-pointers – and is making the most of his opportunity after waiting for seniors to graduate.

Parr wants to see his team continue to get tougher, both physically and mentally, and improve on the boards.

“And we’re going to get after it and attack those areas,” he said.

St. Pius has played a difficult non-region schedule. It has beaten out-of-state powers Baylor of Chattanooga, Tenn., Cardinal Newman of Columbia, S.C., and Canisius of Buffalo, N.Y. The Golden Lions have toppled some of Georgia’s best, including Blessed Trinity, rival Marist, Jonesboro and region rival Lithonia. Their losses have come against Tennessee power Father Ryan and Charlotte Latin, ranked No. 4 in North Carolina.

“We really challenged ourselves,” Parr said. “Our schedule forced us to do everything well to be able to compete. Having that kind of competition really helps us.”

St. Pius has a rematch at Lithonia on Friday and has two games remaining with Southwest DeKalb.