Rayne girls eye Class 4A state title Saturday against Ursuline _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Rayne's Keysuana Moore tries to drive around St.Michael's Molly Smith in a Class 4A semifinal at the Girls Top 28 tournament Thursday at Southeastern Louisiana's University Center in Hammond.

The Rayne High School girls basketball program has evolved in its six seasons under coach Chester Randall.

From humble beginnings in Randall’s first season, when the Lady Wolves won nine games, the squad has evolved into a state championship-caliber program.

After 26 years since the school last won a state title, this year’s team will have the opportunity to join select company when No. 6 Rayne (31-2) faces No. 8 Ursuline (27-6) for the Class 4A state championship.

The game is set for 8 p.m. Saturday in the final game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Top 28 tournament at Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center in Hammond.

“We built it with a family concept,” Randall said. “We said we would have each other’s back and would go to war together. There’s been a trust in each other.”

Rayne, which has won 26 consecutive games, earned the right to face Ursuline with a come-from-behind, 48-44 semifinal victory Thursday over No. 2 St. Michael.

The Lady Wolves battled early nerves and had to overcome a hot-shooting opponent that it trailed by as many as 11 points in the second quarter. Rayne turned to its pressure defense, creating several turnovers that sparked a 9-0 run to get it back in the game.

“That was the first time that a lot of our players were in a game that big before,” Randall said. “Hopefully with that one game under belt, the nerves will go away and we’ll get off to a better start.”

Guard Charlesha Dugas scored 13 of her team-high 21 points in the second half, helping Rayne outscore St. Michael 29-15 in the final two quarters.

Ursuline provides the opposition after a 58-50 victory over Edna Karr. Ursuline sophomore guard/forward Kourtney Weber, the team’s leading scorer at 19 points per game, delivered a team-high 20 in the semifinal win, with guard Brooklyn Mitchell adding 13.

The teams crossed paths in the playoffs a year ago, when Rayne began its run to the quarterfinals with a 62-45 home win.

“This is a different team from last year,” Randall said of Ursuline. “They have much more around (Weber and center Kennedi Jackson). It’s going to be a tough matchup.”