Class 5A blog: St. Pius boys ready for a run at title

Brooks Kahlert brings the ball up the court for St. Pius while teammate Daniel Beverly (No. 13) awaits.
Brooks Kahlert brings the ball up the court for St. Pius while teammate Daniel Beverly (No. 13) awaits.

Credit: Gabriela Morales

Credit: Gabriela Morales

This group of St. Pius basketball players have been together for a while, most of them dating back to their time in middle school. They could hardly wait to get back in the gym in June and start preparations for what could be a special season.

“This is a senior-led team,” coach Aaron Parr said. “They play extremely hard, they share the ball and they play good defense. It’s a good combination and it’s an exciting group.”

The Golden Lions are off to a 10-1 start in their first season in Class 5A. They are pursuing a spot in the Final Four for the fourth time in five years and continue to chase the elusive state championship. St. Pius was runner-up in 2017 and 2018 under Parr’s direction.

Parr, a St. Pius product who is in his 10th season as head coach, pushes his team to do three things: be the hardest-playing team, move the ball and play “fearlessly with a lot of confidence.”

The Golden Lions showed such ferocity at the recent Next Level Hoops Fest in Nashville. They were beaten by Ensworth (Tenn.), whose roster contained a player recruited by Kentucky and another recruited by Kansas. They defeated Center Hill of Olive Branch, Miss., and Ravenwood of Brentwood, Tenn., and brought home a wealth of experience.

This year’s St. Pius team has a veteran backcourt in senior point guard Brookes Kahlert and shooting guard Trey Acklin. Kahlert, who has signed with Rollins, is an exceptional passer – basketball guru Sandy Spiel ranked him as the best passer in 5A – and a good shooter. Acklin, one of the best defenders on the team, has worked hard to upgrade his offense.

Wing Callum Petersen is shooting 45 percent on 3-point tries and junior Eamon Kenah has emerged as one of the team’s leading scorers. Jack Verrill is a 6-foot-8 senior has gotten stronger and has shown improvent from last year, his first on the varsity.

The Golden Lions were 23-8 last year and lost to Cross Creek in the Class 4A Final Four. In getting elevated to Class 5A, St. Pius landed in a very tough basketball league. Region 5 includes DeKalb powers Southwest DeKalb and Lithonia, as well as King, Decatur and Chamblee. It’s a deeper, tougher conference.

“Going up to 5A is a more difficult challenge,” Parr said. “With those DeKalb teams, every night you’re going against great athletes and great coaches who have been around for a long time. It’s going to be a lot of fun to complete with those teams and I think we have a group that can compete.”

St. Pius will host Stone Mountain on Tuesday and has big weekend with home games against Southwest DeKalb on Friday and Lithonia on Saturday.

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