Second-year Lafayette Christian Academy girls basketball coach Errol Rogers wasn’t certain when his program would arrive at the destination he ultimately prescribed.
Rogers, the former women’s head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, witnessed a change in that timetable when the Lady Knights finished in a tie for second place in District 7-1A.
They surpassed that with the program’s first state playoff victory and will subsequently host their first postseason game when No. 20 seed LCA (19-9) entertains No. 4 Arcadia (24-4) Monday in a Class 1A state regional set for 6:30 p.m.
“We’re a little ahead of schedule,” said Rogers, whose team was 5-18 overall and 3-7 in district play a year ago. “I didn’t expect to be here right now. I thought maybe by Year 3 we would be one of the better teams in our district and get to the playoffs, but we got better throughout the year. The kids started believing they could win games.”
One of Monday’s regional-round highlights features a Class 4A showdown when No. 10 St. Thomas More (22-6) visits No. 7 Rayne (24-6) at 6 p.m.
“We had a good talk before practice and they seem to be ready,” Rayne coach Chester Randall said. “They know what’s ahead of them. They know the challenge. This is the best I felt about our team going into a big game.”
Technically, this will be LCA’s second playoff game.
Three years ago, after two teams opted not to occupy the No. 32 seed and dropped out, the Lady Knights went instead and lost to top-seeded Lacassine 93-8.
LCA eclipsed last year’s victory total by the ninth game of the season and reached double-digits wins by Dec. 15.
They didn’t stop there and along picked up a significant victory — 49-44 in overtime against Class 3A Patterson — where the Lady Knights rallied from an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter to tie the game in regulation.
Rogers said his club reached its preseason goal of a runner-up finish behind tradition-rich Vermilion Catholic and went on to set a new standard with Thursday’s 52-47 first-round win over No. 13 Houma Christian.
Junior guard Aija Robinson, who scored 12 points, helped LCA hold off a late third-quarter run and regroup in the fourth quarter to build a 46-40 lead with 2:33 to play.
Robinson is the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game followed by Rogers’ daughter, freshman Erin, at 14 points. Sophomore Reagon Lantier averages 10 rebounds per outing.
“We’re very excited,” Rogers said. “The whole school’s excited but being excited and winning a playoff game are two different things. We’re playing a very good Arcadia team. We have to stay calm and be ready to play.”
STM and Rayne actually met during a November Hall of Fame contest with both teams each missing several starters.
The collision course of two of the area’s top Class 4A programs matches the Lady Cougars, who won the 4A state championship in 2012, were the runner-up in ’13 and semifinalist a year ago.
The Lady Wolves lost to Ellender in last year’s regional round in their first season at the 4A level.
“There’s nothing you can do to simulate playoff experience,” STM coach Stephen Strojny said. “We have some of that. Bailey Hemphill, Allison Howard and Avery Breaux all played significant minutes when we beat Grant and Karr on the road last year. We have a host of role players on the bench that saw it.”
The game also features two of the area’s more dynamic players in freshman guard Megan Abrams for STM, who averages 16 points, and junior guard Charlesha Dugas of Rayne, who scores 20 point per outing.
“They’re a 100 times better since the Hall of Fame game,” Strojny said. “But so are we. It will be interesting.”