Freshman Kaela Webb among many top underclassmen at Country Day that shone brightly in East Lansing
East Lansing — People have to catch themselves when using qualifiers to describe Kaela Webb’s play for Detroit Country Day.
Yes, she is a freshman. Yes, she is a very good basketball player.
But she isn’t just a good basketball player for a freshman — she’s a good basketball player, period.
Scoring 20 points in a state championship game and helping seal the victory by going 6-for-6 from the line is the type of poised leadership on the big stage that coaches expect from their seniors.
Country Day’s best players, however, are freshmen and sophomores, which is a scary thought for the rest of the state. The Yellowjackets won their first state title since 2009 with a 49-41 victory over Haslett in the Class B championship game on Saturday at the Breslin Center.
"(Webb) had a stellar night tonight," Haslett coach Bob Currier said. "Boy, for a freshman, what a nice player with quickness, control, good defense. She did a great job. They don’t play like freshmen and sophomores, that’s for sure, but they have such great physical attributes that it kind of makes up for that some."
Webb picked up the slack for sophomore Destiny Pitts, who was held to four points in the second half after scoring eight in the first. Pitts had 28 points in a semifinal victory over top-ranked Goodrich.
Webb had 11 points in the second half.
Webb and her four freshmen classmates on the roster have already achieved something that eluded some of Country Day’s greatest players. Current Big Ten Conference starters Aerial Powers (Michigan State) and Asia Doss (Ohio State) played for the Yellowjackets for parts of a six-year stretch in which they lost in the 2010 state final before getting eliminated in the quarterfinals the next five years.
Webb had to step in and assume Doss’ role in the lineup, a challenge she embraced with the type of hard work she learned as a coach’s daughter. Her father, Tim, was an assistant coach under Robert Rogers when Pontiac Northern won back-to-back Class A boys’ basketball titles in 2001 and 2002.
"I knew I had to prove myself to know I was supposed to come out here and help the team so we could progress in the season," Webb said. "I knew what I had to do. I had to be in the gym and work harder."
Orlando said: "Kaela has increasingly gotten better. Every day in the gym, she’s here. She’s shooting those threes. She’s going to the hole. She has worked hard to get to this point. It’s hard to fill that kind of player’s shoes, but she’s made a great effort to be that kind of player."
Webb knew she was going to a school with one of the greatest traditions in the state. She wasn’t prepared for what awaited her as an incoming freshman.
"It was weird, because freshmen had to get the water, and I just wasn’t used to that," Webb said. "We had to get the jerseys and everything."
Four freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and two seniors took the floor against Haslett. That, of course, has people thinking that the next Country Day dynasty has arrived, a notion that Orlando wanted no part of in the midst of Saturday’s celebration.
"I can remember some years when we won three in a row and I’d be walking down the hallway," he said. "They would say, ‘What are we going to do next year? Another one, coach?’ I’d say, ‘Please, please, just let the kids be OK with this.’ Lord only knows what’s going to happen next year. If we don’t work hard enough or things don’t go right, they could upset us. This year, I didn’t think, ‘Man, we’re going to win a state championship.’ I thought, ‘Let’s get better.’ What are we going to do next year? I’ll answer it like this — we’re going to work hard."