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December 10, 2012

Country Day to take the court as ‘underdog’ this season?

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Country Day to take the court as ‘underdog’ this season?
Country Day’s Brittany Washington, pictured shooting during a scrimmage earlier this season, is one of just three varsity veterans back with the team.

BEVERLY HILLS — He’s spent decades in this very gym, overseeing some of the best girls basketball teams in state history while winning more games than he cares to count.

Yet, there’s one team that stands out among the rest, one collection of young women that he vows never to forget — a particular season that started worse than any other.

“We were 2-5, I had pneumonia, and all signs pointed toward a long, difficult year,” Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day coach Frank Orlando recalled of the fall of 2003. “Nothing was going our way early on. But those girls rallied around each other, decided to pick each other up, and had a remarkable year. … Truthfully, it was one of the most rewarding coaching experiences of my life.”

That team, loaded with youth and inexperience, rebounded from its 2-5 start, finished the year 20-7, claimed its second straight Class B state title, and the next season, defended it for a three-peat.

Nine years later, Orlando is hoping for a bit of déjà vu.

“I’m still drawing plenty of motivation from that team,” he said with a laugh. “This team I have right now reminds me a lot of that group.”

A year after going 23-2 and reaching the Class B quarterfinals, Orlando is working with three veterans, one returning starter and 11 girls playing varsity basketball for the first time.

“It’s different, but the expectations are always going to be very high around here,” Orlando said. “We’re, essentially, starting over with this group, like we did in ’03. But we know we have to maintain the pride and the tradition of this program. That’s what comes with playing here.”

The Yellowjackets were 1-1 at press time, dropping a Dec. 1 game 54-52 to Woodhaven High.

“And (Woodhaven) celebrated like they won the state title,” Orlando said with a smile. “Which is fine. I don’t blame them one bit. They deserved to win.”

One thing that hasn’t changed with the roster turnover, though, is confidence.

“There’s a lot of talent on this team, and once we figure everything out, we’ll see a lot of wins, too,” said senior guard Tiana Glimpse, one of the three varsity vets. “It’s going to take time, and we know that. But this is a big year for a lot of us, and for some of us, it’s the last chance we have.”

“It’s been interesting so far,” said senior Brittany Washington, another returner. “It’s like a fresh start for this team.”

Orlando said stressing fundamentals is key, especially early.

And while size certainly isn’t a strength — nobody on the roster is taller than 5 feet 9 inches — speed is.

“We’ve got a team of guards,” he joked. “But that’s all right. We’re going to have to play up-tempo and try and run on teams. We’ll speed up the game if we have to.”

Rebuilding isn’t a term used loosely, or often, with Country Day, but senior Asia Doss, the lone returning starter, characterized this season as just that, even taking things a step further.

“It’s weird, but I think we’ll have to play that underdog role more this year,” she said. “It’s not often like that around here, but we don’t mind. We’ll use that in our favor.”

“We can’t expect it all to happen in two games, and that can be hard for young kids to understand, especially in the society we live in now where everything has to go your way right now,” Orlando added. “But the result we’re aiming for, the best basketball we want to be playing, is at the end of the season when the tournament rolls around. That’s our mission.”

And with this coach and this program, more often than not, it’s mission accomplished.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.