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Country Day, fueled by loss in state finals, is back to its old tricks

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 26, 2011

 Juniors Aerial Powers, left, and Amber Deane, pictured during a Jan. 21 practice, are the only starters back this season for Country Day. Still, the team was a perfect 
10-0 at press time.

Juniors Aerial Powers, left, and Amber Deane, pictured during a Jan. 21 practice, are the only starters back this season for Country Day. Still, the team was a perfect 10-0 at press time.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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BEVERLY HILLS — For the first time in a while, Frank Orlando has a Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day basketball team that many would consider anything but typical.

There’s no sure-fire All-Staters.

There are only two starters back from a year ago, and his roster is comprised of a group of girls who have spent the better parts of their careers waiting in the wings.

Nothing typical about that at all, especially for a coach and program that’s used to sending out experienced veterans who by year’s end have a trunk full of individual accolades.

Orlando himself was quick to admit things are slightly different in Beverly Hills this season.

Slightly.

“I think coming into the year there was that thought that we wouldn’t be the same team we were over the past few years,” Orlando said. “But this has turned into a very motivated group — girls who’ve been waiting for their chance to shine and have done nothing but step up.”

“Step up” may be putting it mildly.

At press time, the Yellowjackets were a perfect 10-0 on the season.

But even Orlando admits there is a different feel to this year’s team. While there have been some of the lopsided victories that fans are used to, the current crop of girls has had to come from behind to win in five of the 10 games.

“I guess it’s different in the sense that we’re a work in progress right now,” Orlando said. “We only returned six girls and we graduated a ton of talent, but this is a great group. They have such a competitive spirit.”

“We were all pretty nervous when the season started, because I don’t think we knew what to expect,” said junior guard Amber Deane, a returning starter. “But once we got into it and started working together, the confidence really started growing.”

The perfect start is especially impressive considering the team graduated standout center Madison Williams, Troy Hambric and Imari Redfield — a trio who had years of varsity experience and multiple state championships.

“We understood what we lost, and it was a lot,” junior forward Aerial Powers, the team’s other returning starter, said during a Jan. 21 practice. “At the same time, that got us going. We knew we’d all have to step up and play bigger than in the past. We knew people would be counting us out and that we might even be an underdog from time to time. So it’s been our job to go out and prove them wrong.”

After opening the season in, well, typical Country Day fashion — a 73-38 victory against Ann Arbor Huron — the girls have found just about every way to win, whether it was lopsided, come from behind or just downright nail-bighting, like their 48-45 escape act against Canton.

“Getting more consistent is the key we have to focus on,” Orlando added. “I still don’t think we’ve play a complete game just yet. But this is the part of the year where you work to get better. They’re not handing out any awards just yet.”

And it’s that ultimate award, or lack thereof, that may be driving the current group of Yellowjackets more than anything else.

A year ago, they were a team that took a 24-0 record into the Class B state final with a chance to earn the school a three-peat of titles.

“To lose that last game and have it be the only loss of the year in the state final, it was just heartbreaking,” Deane said, shaking her head recalling the 51-43 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, the first setback for Country Day since a 46-45 loss to East Lansing on Feb. 24, 2009.

“It’s given us a ton of motivation, though,” she added. “That loss drives us.”

“Huge motivation, absolutely,” Powers stressed. “We know what we have to do to get to that point and beyond.”

“It’s certainly not going to be given to us,” Orlando added. “But I really believe this is a team that does some things equally as well or better than some of the team’s I’ve taken all the way. ... I know in their hearts they want to get back and overcome what we missed last year.”

 

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