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By Jim Manion | Correspondent
Southeast girls basketball head coach Bob Dunn and wife Becky have only two children. However, if you asked the coach to name the members of his family, it would take him a few minutes to rattle off more than probably 25 girls.
Dunn's Pirates recently captured the 2012-13 Portage Trail Conference County Division championship in his third year at the helm, after returning to the sport he loves from a three-year absence.
Dunn would be the first to give credit to his players, a close-knit group of nine girls that have worked extremely hard the past three years to accomplish their goals.
The Pirates' program is much more than just hard work. It is much more than just winning basketball games and now is more than winning its first title since 2008.
The Southeast basketball program is all about family.
The Pirates' family will take on a tough Poland Seminary tonight in the Austintown Division II Sectional at 6 p.m. in hopes of continuing their special season.
IT STARTED WITH THE BOYS
Dunn first developed his basketball family when coaching the Southeast boys program for 13 years prior to stepping down as coach and becoming an assistant principal at Southeast. His teams won the final two Portage County League championships in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Dunn was named Coach of the Year in both of those seasons.
"I think any coach is a product of coaches they have had and growing up," Dunn said. "As a son of a coach, I was blessed to have my dad not only as a coach, but as my role model. The philosophies that I have tried to pass on to my players about hard work and caring about your teammates and togetherness and group glory came from my dad.
"Several other coaches I have worked with helped me with my success," Dunn said. "I had a year under John Herchek and a year with Jackie Greynolds before I got here and had a couple years with Russ Swartz."
Three years ago when Dunn took over the girls program, the Pirates only mustered five combined wins throughout the varsity, junior varsity and junior high program in the 2009-10 season.
This season, that number grew to over 50 victories. PTC titles were captured by the varsity, JV and eighth-grade teams, while the seventh-grade team advanced to the title game before losing.
Now the high school principal, Dunn also won his 200th game and has a current total record of 209-130 (.617) in 16 years coaching.
BUILDING A FOUNDATION
"Our key word was patience when we started, and we knew we were not going to win right away, but we wanted to build a strong foundation," said Dunn. "We have a strong youth program and some great coaches in the junior-high system. The kids have really developed a great work ethic, so we think we can be in contention for years to come.
"These kids really want to be a part of this family atmosphere. You know, the JV season is over, but we still have 25 girls here today at practice. We went to scout Poland the other night and had 25 kids go, and I think that speaks to our family environment."
At Southeast, it has become more than just basketball.
"Everyone likes the sense of belonging and that is why we get so many girls in the program," said JV coach Melinda Furr. "And coach Dunn deserves all the credit. His expertise about the game is amazing, but maybe even more impressive is his way of motivating the girls. Three years ago, he told the girls and staff that if we stick together, we could get here. Little did we know it would only take three years."
TEAM COMES TOGETHER
Dunn believes that the championship started coming together at a hot summer camp on the outdoor courts of Southern Ohio. With the heat index over 100 degrees and several teams electing not be play, the Pirates pushed on through the conditions.
"This team does the little intangibles. The motivational stuff that I give them, they take to the next level," grinned Dunn. "They are so unselfish and want to make that extra pass if it is for the good of the team. They really care about each other and trust in each other."
The offensive leader of the team is senior post player and captain Shayna White, who is averaging a double-double. She scores 18.8 points and pulls down almost 13 rebounds a game. White and fellow captain, senior Katelyn McCullough, also shared that family feeling about the team.
When the captains talk about the team, it's always about the nine players not about five or even one.
"We are also so much closer as a team since coach Dunn took over," said McCullough.
White believes if the team plays tonight like they have all year, they should come back from Austintown with a victory.
The other three starters on the team are juniors Lydia Wallbrown, Jillian Fesemyer and Brittany Butcher.
Dunn calls Wallbrown one of the toughest kids on the team.
"If there is a ball on the floor, you can bet she will be diving after it and she has played the entire season with a broken back."
Fesemyer is the team leader in assists and charges taken, while Butcher set the school record this year with 73 3-pointers.
One of the first role players off the bench is sophomore Madison Dunn -- the coaches' daughter.
"She makes good decisions and is a good rebounder and probably one of the smartest basketball-knowledge players," said Dunn.
Dunn reflected about the opportunity to coach his daughter.
"I've really enjoyed it and it has been as satisfying as anything I have ever done in coaching, especially getting to share this championship with her being an important role on this team. Watching her take those steps up the ladder to help cut down the net was really special," said the proud father.
Providing additional offense off the bench is sophomore Rachel Stull, who has been a real asset.
"She has been averaging about eight points in the last five games and has really stepped up when other teams attempt to shut down Butcher," said Dunn
Senior Christine Wassam is the spark-plug and energy player of the team, according to Dunn. Another senior, Allison Sapp, has really improved her game and provided some important minutes as a physical presence in the post.
"I really admire both Christine and Allison, because they both started some as sophomores and now maybe have a lesser role, but they have accepted that role because it's about family," said Dunn.
"When I came back to coaching, I didn't know I would love it this much," said Dunn. "I have just been blessed with a great staff and great kids. This has been the most enjoyable season I have ever been involved with and some of the most enjoyable kids I've had the opportunity to work with and coach."