It was after a long bus ride and a first-half beating that Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day coach Kurt Keener said he realized the potential that his team possessed.
Midway through the season, the Yellowjackets made the trek to Saginaw Arthur Hill and trailed by double digits to the Class A power.
“We came back and won because we were able to stop them and get our offense going,” Keener said. “So to win a game against a tough opponent on the road, that told me that we had the potential to go all the way.”
With that win, an identity was born.
Country Day became stubborn on the defensive end and rode the wave all the way to the Class B semifinals, where it finally met its match in defending state champion Lansing Sexton.
The Yellowjackets fell 74-59 March 23 in East Lansing. Sexton went on to win its second straight title the next day.
“I thought that we did not play our best game, but a lot of that had to do with them, and their defensive intensity and physicality, which took us out of what we do best,” Keener said. “I knew going in we’d have to play our best. They’re a great team and have a lot of talent.”
After trailing by 14 points at the half, Country Day cut the lead to seven heading into the fourth, but were unable to get any closer.
The Yellowjackets finish the season 21-6 overall and with its eighth straight regional championship.
Country Day was made up of all first-year starters, and Keener said it was satisfying to see them develop a sense of unity.
“We had a lot of good players that were very unselfish and content to play the game the right way, and whomever had the hot hand would be the go-to guy,” he said. “As a coach, you’re constantly preaching about sharing the ball and you try to make analogies to life.
“Here was an opportunity to put into practice some things and they did. Not only did we accomplish some short-term goals making a long run in the playoffs, but I also felt like the seed was planted that will impact them later on in life, and as a coach, that’s very satisfying.”