By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Frank Orlando considered the question for a few seconds Friday and mentioned his 2003 Detroit Country Day team – and the three players next to him, who were toddlers then, all started to giggle.
“They say I’m old as dirt,” Orlando said, and then referred to sophomore Destiny Pitts. “And she’s right, too.”
The question: Is this the youngest team Orlando has coached in 34 seasons? With five freshmen, three sophomores and only two seniors, the answer is yes, younger than the junior-dominated squad that won Class B in 2003.
But on Saturday, it also can join his best.
A near-perfect shooting performance in the first half of Friday’s Class B Semifinal helped Country Day break away and earn a championship opportunity with a 69-39 win over No. 2 Goodrich, the highest-ranked team left in the field.
“We came here as a team together, for one mission only, to win today,” Country Day freshman Kaela Webb said. “Besides the bright lights and the stage that we were playing on, we had to stick together. And we were stressing that in the locker room when we first got here too.”
Country Day (21-4) will play in its 15th MHSAA Final, seeking its 11th title but first since 2009, when it faces Haslett in the day’s last game at 6 p.m.
The Yellowjackets played like a veteran team against Goodrich (25-2), the back-to-back champion in 2012 and 2013.
Yes, Orlando said this is his youngest team. But he said it's also one of the best defensively that he’s coached.
The Yellowjackets were giving up 34 points per game heading into Friday. They allowed junior guard Alexis Sevillian 18 points and senior guard and Miss Basketball Award winner Tania Davis 12. But they held the Martians to 30 percent shooting total and outrebounded them 40-25.
“The maturity I’ve seen in this team is one of the best improvements I’ve seen in my tenure at Country Day,” Orlando said. “They’ve come from 14-year-olds who haven’t played to playing at a level of expertise. I’m so proud of them and their maturity that’s now taken place. I guess you would say it’s a nice time for it.”
Orlando went on to explain that even when teams aren’t scoring, they can compete with good defense. But the Yellowjackets didn’t face that scenario Friday.
They made 50 percent of their shots during the first half, including all six 3-point tries, and finished shooting 44 percent for the game and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Country Day used a 13-3 run to start the second quarter and build a 15-point lead, and an 11-4 run over the final three minutes of the third quarter to regain a comfortable advantage after Goodrich had pulled within six points at 35-29.
“We joked at halftime that if they don’t miss any tonight, there’s nothing we can do. … For me, it was comforting knowing they could not play this well again in the second half,” Goodrich coach Jason Gray said. “(But) we got tired. They’ve got a lot of athletes, and we just couldn’t put together that run we needed in the second half. “
Pitts finished with 28 points, including six 3-pointers, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Senior Jordan Wright added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Webb had 10 points, three assists and three steals.
Davis finished as a four-year starter for Goodrich and was the team’s leading scorer in its 2013 Class B Final win. She’ll continue her career next season at the University of Iowa.
“Coming into freshman year, I never thought I’d be here at Breslin three times, never thought I’d win Class B Player of the Year (from The Associated Press) two years in a row, never though I’d be Miss Basketball,” Davis said. “It’s been unbelievable. It’s been unthinkable. It’s been my dream, coming up, pretty much.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Jordan Wright (11) and Arika Tolbert (10) block the shot of Goodrich’s Alexis Sevillian during Friday’s Semifinal. (Middle) Country Day’s Destiny Pitts works to drive around Goodrich’s Ciya Hawkins.
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.