By Jim Manion | Correspondent
"BELIEVE TO ACHIEVE" was the inscription across the back of all the Pirates girls basketball team on Wednesday as they slipped on new T-shirts celebrating the clinching of the outright Portage Trail Conference County Division championship before they cut down the nets.
The Pirates (15-4, 12-1 PTC County) avenged the only loss on their division record on Wednesday when they captured a 64-45 division win over visiting Windham to secure the league title.
The championship is the first for Southeast since the 2007-08 season. The Bombers had defeated Southeast 59-43 in their first meeting.
Pirates head coach Bob Dunn admitted following the game that it's really exciting to be around the Southeast program right now.
"This was just a great effort by a lot of kids that have really put in a lot of hard work," he said. "Three years ago, we didn't know if this was possible, but it is a validation of their hard work. Our entire program is feeling this, the JV team is undefeated and our junior-high programs have a chance to win titles. My coaching staff, top to bottom, are quality people that have done such a great job, I have it pretty easy around here."
With the championship, it is believed Dunn is the first basketball coach to win both a boys and girls title in county history. He coached the Pirates' boys program for 13 years and claimed a pair of championships, before taking over the girls program three years ago.
On Wednesday, the Pirates led from the opening tip until the final buzzer. Starting the four seniors on the roster for the school's annual Senior Night -- led by All-County Division post player Shayna White -- Southeast slowly took the lead.
White produced her typical double-double with 23 points and 14 rebounds and in many cases was the stopper each time the Bombers would make a run. Brittany Butcher came off the bench to light up the offense from behind the 3-point arc with four 3-pointers and 14 points. Rachel Stull had 11 markers, while Katelyn McCullough tossed in 10 points for the winners.
The first quarter started slow, with both teams missing offensive opportunities and turning the ball over. Stull cashed in with the first 3-pointer of the contest to give the Pirates a 9-4 advantage at the 2:43 mark of the first quarter.
The Pirates went inside to White for six first-quarter points and McCullough closed out the quarter by hitting a 3 for a 14-6 quarter score.
The Bombers (11-10, 6-7 PTC County) started clicking offensively in the second quarter when Jessica Isler nailed three 3s, however, Stull countered with a pair of 3s to maintain the Pirates' lead. White continued to be a force inside the paint with six more points and Southeast led at the half 30-23.
Southeast opened its biggest lead late in the third quarter when the Pirates went on an 8-2 run. Senior Allison Sapp hit a short jumper at the buzzer to give her team a 46-32 advantage after three quarters.
The Bombers suffered a blow to open the final stanza when Dari Heller picked up her fifth personal foul in the first minute of the quarter. She had been forced out of the game early in the third quarter when she picked up her fourth personal with 5:41 on the clock.
Butcher got red-hot for the Pirates in the final quarter and pushed the lead to 19 points securing the championship.
Windham head coach Gregg Isler said that his team just had no answer for White.
"They were patient enough that we couldn't put pressure on to isolate her," Isler said. "They had a heck of a year and deserve the title. Bob (Dunn) has done a good job."
Jessica Isler led the Bomber scoring with 19 and also had seven steals defensively. Heller scored nine points, despite the fact she was only on the floor about half the game.