Team: 27-5 overall, 10-0 in Tri-River Athletic Conference, Central Section D-I champion, Southern California Regional runner-up and No. 14 ranking in the state by Cal-Hi Sports
D-I title game: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in 66-38 win over Stockdale
Season averages: 21.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.2 steals
Four-year career totals: 1,377 points, 518 rebounds, 281 assists, 239 steals
Awards: TRAC co-Player of the Year and Bee All-Star in 2009; TRAC co-Player of the Year in 2010
College: Chose Columbia over Fresno State and Kansas State
The Orlich girls longed for the day they could play in front of the large home-court crowds they saw support their father, Tom, as the boys basketball coach at Clovis West High.
“And that hurt me,” he says. “They deserve it; they work just as hard as the guys. I know they felt underappreciated.”
Then the fans finally came en masse — from kids in the Golden Eagles’ feeder system to the student body to community adults to neutral observers — for Clovis West’s Southern California Regional semifinal against Santa Monica.
“It gave me chills,” says Brianna Orlich, the middle of three sisters.
The senior point guard, in turn, gave the crowd of around 2,000 the same thing in her final home appearance.
Her 39-point, 13-pound performance — featuring seven straight points to break a late tie, and 16 points total in the fourth quarter — launched the Eagles to a 61-57 victory and into their first SoCal final in 15 years.
“When I look back, it will be my most memorable moment in high school,” says The Bee’s girls basketball Player of the Year. “And it was not just scoring 39 points or the win; it was the atmosphere, the student body, the Little Hoopsters, the [fans’] rushing of the court.
“Not every girl experiences that, and it was cool that we were one of the lucky ones. Finally, we got to show people what we are.”
Orlich’s four-year career closed at USC’s Galen Center a week later in a 68-53 loss to nationally fifth-ranked Long Beach Poly.
Opposing a box-and-one defense that had the Jackrabbits play zone against four players while shadowing her every step with a defender, Orlich still managed to score 16 points in a game that was tied in the third quarter.
Orlich will take to Columbia of the Ivy League a résumé that counts 1,377 points, 518 rebounds, 281 assists and 239 steals in arguably the finest all-around career for a program that has delivered many while winning 12 Central Section titles in 20 years. She contributed to three of those championships, including one this year in a 27-5 season. The Eagles went 103-23 in her career.
Not to be ignored, of course, while heading to New York to join a league of elite academic institutions — where all but $7,000 of the $60,000 annual freight will be paid — is a 4.0 grade-point average and valedictorian honor.
Taft-Woodland Hills coach Mark Drucker, following a 84-53 drubbing at Clovis West in a SoCal Regional opener, accurately predicted the Eagles would advance to the regional final because of a team IQ that far exceeded anything he had seen in the Los Angeles City section.
And that brain trust began with Orlich, who was raised in a gym because of dad’s coaching career.
But any of his daughter’s genetics, he makes clear, came from mom, Kelly, a former All-America softball player at then-University of Reno (now Nevada).
Brianna Orlich says she was never pressured by her parents to play basketball: “I actually participated in every event there is — piano lessons, dance, soccer; I tried everything. I just happened to fall in love with basketball.”
For all her skill — shooting, passing, driving, vision and defense — dad lists first among her attributes as a “intense will to win,” which was never more magnified than in the Santa Monica game.
Clovis West coach Craig Campbell agrees: “Every day, every drill, she never stopped competing. And, against Santa Monica, she flat-out wanted it more. It was the greatest performance of sheer will I’ve ever seen.”