Rayne senior guard Charlesha Dugas wasn’t about to allow her final opportunity at a coveted trip to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament slip through her fingers.
With two past state quarterfinal disappointments serving as a driving force, Dugas retreated to her team’s locker room Thursday after the Wolves rallied for a seven-point halftime lead over Fair Park.
Dugas said she felt fortunate to be in such a position, admittedly not after playing one of her best halves of the season.
Early foul trouble was the culprit, limiting Dugas’ aggressiveness on both ends of the court and ultimately her impact on the game.
With Rayne 16 minutes away from advancing to the school’s first semifinal in 26 years, fifth-year coach Chester Randall sent a fiery challenge in Dugas’ direction during halftime — one the 5-foot-9 standout answered to help deliver a 57-50 victory.
“I got on her, and she cried,” Randall said. “She came out in the second half and was an animal. She put us on her back and got us to the Top 28. She’s learned how to handle adversity and be a leader.”
Dugas, who went on to score 24 points with four steals and three rebounds, let out tears of joy after the final buzzer. She embraced fellow senior Whitley Larry and effectively buried the disappointment of two quarterfinal setbacks in the past three years.
“I was frustrated in the first half. I was getting every foul called on me, and it limited how I played,” Dugas said. “I kept saying I couldn’t do anything. He (Randall) just told me he needed me to step up. I didn’t want that to be my last game, so I stepped up.”
Four years ago when Dugas entered the program and immediately became a starter, this was the stage she intended for Rayne to be on.
The sixth-seeded Wolves (30-2) will meet No. 2 St. Michael the Archangel (27-8) in a Class 4A state semifinal at 2:45 p.m. Thursday at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center.
“I wanted to make it in my last year,” Dugas said. “I wanted the opportunity to at least be in the Final Four.”
The only missing piece to Dugas’ impressive résumé would be a state championship, something Rayne last won in 1990.
Dugas will leave Rayne as the school’s career scoring leading, surpassing the total of 1,409 points by her cousin Tarunye Kanonu (1993-97) with 1,993 points.
She’s displayed a natural progression over her career, improving in all major statistical categories to enjoy career-bests in points (22.2), steals (5.3) and assists (2.3) along with being second in rebounds (5.3).
Dugas has reached double figures in 29 of Rayne’s 31 games and recorded five double-doubles. She’s scored 20-plus points 20 times, highlighted by her most recent 24-point effort against Fair Park.
“Before that game, I said I didn’t know what I would do if we won and I wound up crying,” Dugas said. “Losing those others (quarterfinals) were very heartbreaking. I felt like this win made up for those hurt feelings. It made it so much better.”