When Frank Orlando began the 2012-13 girls basketball season, he did so with a renewed and realistic expectations — as he does every single year.
Although these expectations were unlike any he’d had before.
“We’re, essentially, starting over with this group,” the Beverly Hills Country Day coach said early on.
His team had just one starter back, only three girls with any varsity experience, and another 11 on the varsity squad for the first time in their careers.
While Orlando may not have said it directly, he knew that if there was such a thing as rebuilding at Country Day, this would likely be the year it had to happen.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
“This team, and this year, was a very unique situation,” Orlando said with a laugh. “In my 32 years, it was probably the most unique, but one of the most rewarding, years I’ve ever had.”
He spoke a day after the season ended in a 50-30 loss to Flint Powers Catholic in the Class B quarterfinals.
For a man, and program, that’s been defined by state championships, not to mention a rotating crop of some of the best individual talent in the state, calling a season with a premature ending one of the best ever may need some dissecting.
“It’s hard to explain that, in the sense that we didn’t win a state title and so on, but when you look at where we started, how we finished and what we had to work with, they accomplished so much,” he said. “As far as achieving what they did, this was probably one of the best teams I’ve had.”
The Yellowjackets began the year 2-2, but following the quarterfinal loss, finished with an 18-4 overall record.
They rolled to the program’s 16th consecutive district title, then took part in a drama-filled comeback in the regional semifinal to sneak past Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy in overtime before upending Ferndale High to claim the 16th straight regional title.
Facing Flint Powers Catholic (20-6), the lack of experience may have finally showed.
Country Day missed its first nine shots and trailed 15-0 before anyone had a chance to blink.
“They played a very good basketball game,” Orlando said of Powers. “You have to give them credit.”
The rest of the credit he heaped on his girls and their season.
“They were able to come together and realize the type of game we had to play to be successful,” he said. “We had to be up-tempo. We had to press and force the issue. I mean, we had a team of mostly guards, and they learned to play that way. They shared the ball. They emphasized the team game. And as the year went on, they learned how to finish games. There were so many we could have lost that they found ways to win.”
Four seniors are set to move on, but only Asia Doss will vacate a starting position.
“The experience will be back, and that can go a long way,” Orlando said. “They learned a lot about themselves and about the game this year. I think we’ll have a great shot to continue the tradition of this program.”