When last we left Birmingham Detroit Country Day, the Yellowjackets had just lost, 57-46, to Grand Rapids South Christian in the girls Class B semifinal basketball game at the Breslin Center.
South Christian’s Markayla Vander locked up All-State guard-forward Destiny Pitts. Tylar Bennett, a 6-foot-4 center, was a non-factor. Guard Kaela Webb, also an All-Stater, was neutralized and Maxine Moore couldn’t get free of the suffocating Sailors defense.
The Yellowjackets were top-ranked and had only lost one game entering the semifinals.
“We got beat up,” said Pitts, a Miss Basketball contender this season. “It wasn’t a good feeling, so we know what we want to do. We got blindsided. We’ve felt both sides, winning and losing. We took some things for granted.”
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Pitts, Bennett, Webb and Moore are back for the Yellowjackets and coach Frank Orlando, who is starting his 50th overall year of coaching and would like nothing better than to finish a half-century of mentoring with a championship.
Bennett, a senior, has committed to Clemson and Pitts has picked Minnesota. Webb, a junior, has already committed to Marquette. Moore is a junior.
After the semifinal loss, Orlando made significant changes in preseason preparation and how he went about the first week of practice. To make sure the seasoned group stayed focused, he put together a challenging schedule of Class A and B powers.
“You’ve got Tylar, Destiny, Kaela and Max,” said Orlando. “They’re all good players, but they have to say ‘I’m going to sacrifice for this person.’ It’s all right if they score. We’ll see if that happens.”
Adrian Folks, a sophomore forward, will see time, and Orlando is switching to multiple point guards — Webb and sophomore Jasmine Powell. Pitts could also play point if needed.
“I’ll play 10 in the beginning and see who can go,” said Orlando. “I had to play a tough schedule to make it competitive. I wanted to have real tough teams during the year so they’d be ready by tournament time.”
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The South Christian loss is still fresh.
“I think that (loss) would give them the idea that you have to work hard the whole year, you have to work extremely hard,” said Orlando. “You can’t take anything for granted. (Last year) I didn’t think they realized it, but I think they felt that we’d go in there and get to the state finals and that’s the way it was. It wasn’t that way. The hungrier team won.”
Orlando said this year’s group is working harder.
“We’re anticipating a tougher game and when we get that tougher game, we’ll be ready to play,” said Orlando.
“We’ve changed some things,” said Pitts. “The big difference is the roster is smaller … we only have 10 this year. It could hurt if we have injury problems. It’ll help us stay close-knit. Everybody will play a significant role.
“We know what we have to do. Last year taught us that you can’t do what you want to do. You have to be in the structure of the program. I think that helped reel everybody back in. I think there’s a lot to look forward to this year.”
Orlando has coached some great players, with Peggy Evans being at the top of the list. And Pitts is right up there, too.
“She can do so many things,” said Orlando. “She can pass the ball real well. She can drive to the basket. She can shoot it. She does little things that you don’t notice. She’ll rebound if she has to. She was the leading rebounder in the state semifinals and she’s a guard.”
Said Webb: “Nobody likes to lose and I don’t plan on doing that anymore. I won (a state title) my freshman year and I’m hungry (for another). It’ll be tough. We loaded up the schedule this year.”