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Orchard's competitiveness fuels Devon Prep's OT win

12/18/2021, 7:00pm EST
By Ty Daubert

Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)

HAVERFORD — Devon Prep’s Lucas Orchard wants to compete on the floor at all times — it’s in his blood, after all.

The son of a Division I softball coach raised in a family that pushes him to succeed, Orchard never wants to sell himself short. So when the Tide found itself trailing the Haverford School by 18 at the half on the road on Saturday afternoon, the junior made a push to show what the team was capable of.

“I just love to win,” Orchard said. “I feel like we definitely have something to prove.”

Lucas Orchard stands in a gym

Lucas Orchard (above) comes from a family that encourages competitiveness and drive. (Photo: Ty Daubert/CoBL)

A 6-foot-3 wing with an unconventional-looking jump shot, Orchard may not appear to be the most outstanding at first look, but his lengthy wingspan, knack for getting in the paint and dedication to improving in all facets make him a true impact player for the Tide.

“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve coached,” Devon Prep head coach Jason Fisher said. “All that with the fact that he always wants to get better, and both of those things are kind of what we pride ourselves on in the program. It’s almost like a perfect match.”

That competitive nature starts at home for Orchard, whose mother, Bridget Orchard, is the head coach of the 2021 Big East champion Villanova Wildcats softball team. Prior to joining Villanova in 2019, she coached Fordham’s softball program for 17 seasons. She began her career as the head coach at Division III Cabrini after playing four years at Villanova from 1994-1997.

Bridget Orchard, knowing what it takes to be a successful amateur athlete, has always been tough on Lucas. He noted that he doesn’t always agree with her and that it isn’t always the easiest for him, but he appreciates and values her knowledge and input. He’s gotten to see and learn how to better himself through the experiences and lessons from his mother.

“She’s hard on me, but it works for me,” Lucas Orchard said.

The drive for greatness in sports goes beyond just his mother. Orchard said his father, Jason, watches basketball film and will make suggestions based on his observations as well.

“It’s definitely made me a lot tougher than most other kids,” Lucas Orchard said. “I feel like, having a mom like that — and my dad’s also like that, too — so two parents in the house that are really, really tough on me to keep excelling and keep working in sports and never giving up, that makes me tough.”

His enthusiasm for sports and getting better was also inherited from beyond his parents. His grandparents, Bob and Jean Baxter, travel to nearly every one of Orchard’s games from the state of New York. Bob, a former youth coach in several sports, gets especially excited to see his grandson play.

“They live in Binghamton, and they drive three hours down for almost every game,” Orchard said. “Grandpa loves it. He screams like crazy.”

Channeling a similar passion, Orchard has been putting in the extra work to get better for Devon Prep this season. Fisher said he can often be found in the gym at 5 a.m. to put up outside shots and get other overall reps. 

‘“He’s putting in so much work — not only being able to shoot the ball, but his overall strength, his physical strength — that he’s able to get in the paint almost whenever he wants,” the coach noted.

Orchard’s effort was on display on Saturday as he helped Devon Prep overcome that 18-point deficit in a 72-65 overtime win against the Fords. He scored a game-high 24 points while attacking the basket and flurrying in some jumpers late.

Orchard was able to help keep the Tide afloat with some early looks in the paint, but really got things going in the second half. He was able to penetrate and find teammates such as IV Pettit and Allen Cieslak, who scored 20 and 15 points, respectively, for outside looks while also scoring on his own.

In the overtime period, Orchard scored seven points on a 3-pointer, a layup and two free throws, helping secure the win for Devon Prep.

“Those moments, I love them,” he said. “That’s when the fun begins.”

The win was important for Orchard and the Tide, who are trying to follow up a solid 9-4, third-place campaign in the Catholic League last season. The junior said he felt that other teams think their run was a “fluke” in a shortened year, but they want to show otherwise.

“We had a good year last year, but people still don’t think it was real,” Orchard said. “We see all the social media posts, how people don’t rank us (highly) in the top 10s or anything. And we use that as motivation every day in practice and think we’re better than these teams they put ahead of us. That’s what we try to show.”

Having a current coach and a former athlete in the family helps Orchard know how to keep his focus away from the doubters.

“My mom being a coach definitely helps me out with everything on the court,” he said. “It helps me not worry about the (social) media posts. … We know that we’re slept on, but we just do what we can to prove them wrong.”

Devon Prep, now sitting at 3-0, will have a tough road ahead of itself entering Catholic League play later in the season, as the PCL is stacked with talent from schools like Roman Catholic, West Catholic and defending champion Archbishop Wood. Fisher said he hasn’t looked too deeply at the other Catholic League teams at this point in the season, but strives to remain competitive in each game.

The competitor in Orchard is aiming a bit higher.

He believes Devon Prep can be one of the top four teams in the PCL and make an appearance in the league semifinals at the Palestra. That would be certainly a tall task for the Tide, but Orchard was ready to say it and work to prove himself right.

“They’ll probably laugh at that,” he said. “But come February, we’ll show them.”

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