Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills
Country Day wins 17th straight regional; Marian takes home second
March 11, 2014
FERNDALE — He’s been around seemingly forever, won more games than he cares to count, and as of late last week, added to a streak of regional titles that is somewhat unbelievable, even if the record book says it’s so.
Yet, for anyone who wonders whether or not it all still means something to Frank Orlando, well, here stood the legendary Country Day girls basketball coach after a 74-41 victory against Ferndale High.
Here was his team, marching onto the state quarterfinals for the 17th straight season.
And here, when asked if it ever gets old, was Orlando, hardly able to speak, fighting back tears with a smile and a quick joke.
“It’s the Italian in me,” he said. “I get a little emotional.”
“It never gets old because it’s different kids,” Orlando said after the game, played March 6 at Clawson High. “God bless them. They seem to be playing harder and harder.”
So it was again this night, against a scrappy Ferndale team that was seeking revenge for last year’s loss in the same game to the same Country Day team.
But the Yellowjackets were simply too much, turning a 14-6 first-quarter lead into a 40-17 halftime advantage.
“Defensively, they never let up,” Orlando said of his girls and their ability to put a game away. “They keep playing hard. That’s the difference with this team: they never quit.”
The tears came back when asked to put the 17 straight regional titles into some sort of context, specifically what it meant to this team and this year.
“They’re a part of Lady Jacket history,” he said. “It’s about the kids. … We’ve had teams with more talent, but the heart of (this team) will match any team before it.”
When the season started, Orlando said he could tell his group may have been an afterthought in some circles.
Without a legitimate post player, and with only four seniors, could this really be a rebuilding year over in Beverly Hills?
The Ferndale win bumped Country Day’s record to 23-1 and pushed the team to the quarterfinals, where they faced Flint Powers Catholic (22-1) in a game played after press time.
Win or lose, though, Orlando said this season has already been a huge success because of his girls and because of the tradition they upheld.
“I love it,” he added. “I love to see kids come up and get to experience this. They play this way because they love this game, and that’s what keeps me going. Who knows how many years I can keep doing this, but these girls keep me going.”
Marian rolls in Class A
Playing in a Class A regional final at Lake Orion High, the Marian basketball team created a bit of a streak of its own on March 6.
With a 45-29 victory against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, the Mustangs picked up their second straight regional title.
Marian (22-2) advanced to the St. Clair Shores South Lake quarterfinal and faced Port Huron Northern after press time.