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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Orange Lutheran's Tom Howard is the Register's coach of the year for girls basketball for the 2014-15 season.

2014-15 Girls basketball coach of the year: Tom Howard, Orange Lutheran

STAFF WRITER

Tom Howard spent the start of this season getting to know the large collection of new players on the Orange Lutheran roster.

By the end of the season, he had seen enough to know it was a special group.

Despite having just one returning starter, Gloria Bates, the Lancers won a CIF-SS championship. For his role in that achievement, Howard is the Register’s coach of the year.

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Related:

All-County girls basketball first team

Girls basketball player of the year: Katie Lou Samuelson, Mater Dei

All-County girls basketball: 2nd, 3rd teams

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“This year was so unique and special, mainly because nobody expected it,” said Howard, who just completed his sixth year as the Lancers’ coach. “We didn’t expect it, and most importantly, our girls did not expect it. They didn’t come into the season thinking CIF championship.”

The Lancers, whose roster included seven players with no varsity experience before this season, steadily developed throughout the season.

By the time the season ended in March, Howard’s roster of six sophomores, five juniors and one senior had a 25-9 record, a CIF Division 3A championship (over league rival Santa Margarita) and had reached the semifinals of CIF State Regionals.

When his team was awarded the top seed in the Division 3A bracket for the CIF-SS playoffs, Howard noted that some of his players had no idea why they were seeded so high.

“They didn’t even know that there were rankings,” he laughed. “Literally no clue. They were just showing up to practice day-to-day and we’re like, ‘What’re we doing today?’ That’s as far forward as they thought.”

It was definitely a challenging process for Howard, who was quick to give credit to the team’s assistant coaches, Kara Dismuke, Skip Allen, Henry Tran, Joseph Garcia and Kaitlin Mead.

“To have a group of people that understand our program and what our school is all about, it’s a huge, huge sense of community,” he said. “So this is – without question – a program achievement what happened this year.”

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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