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.”
Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.
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.