Rayne’s excellence in girls basketball has resulted in annual postseason trips, including last year’s Class 4A state quarterfinal appearance against state power Salmen.
Just because the overall level of District 3-4A may not measure up to what it’s been in the past hasn’t altered the expectations of Wolves coach Chester Randall for his team.
“I told them after practice the other day when district starts we’re 0-0, none of the other stuff matters,” Randall said. “I told them to concentrate on district, and our goal is to ultimately be 10-0.”
Rayne (17-2) is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as league champions, beginning that process at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a home game against LaGrange (3-14).
The Wolves, rated fifth in the LHSAA’s unofficial power ratings, begin the next phase of their season as the only district team with a winning record.
DeRidder (8-11) and Washington-Marion (4-11) are among the state’s top 32 teams that could qualify for postseason play.
“We’ve got to use these games to get better, and hopefully it won’t hurt us in power points,” Randall said. “That’s my concern. I tried to schedule as tough as possible before district because I knew it was going to happen.”
Rayne has already registered key wins over Donaldsonville, Class B power Fairview, South Beauregard, Class 5A’s Scotlandville (twice), defending Class 1A champion North Central and most recently Iota.
The Wolves are riding a 10-game win streak, which includes back-to-back tournament championships at Midland and Northwest.
In between, though, Rayne dealt with its first bit of adversity after consecutive losses to Class 5A Barbe and St. Thomas More, the state’s No. 1 team in the Class 4A state power rankings.
Moreover, Rayne lost the services for the season of talented sophomore forward Tasia Duhon near the end of the Barbe game with a torn ACL.
“We shouldn’t have lost those two games,” Randall said. “But they got us refocused.”
The injury to Duhon, who averaged 14 points, forced Rayne to adjust six games into the season, further depleting a team that was already thin.
Instead of utilizing 10 to 11 players as he had in past years, Randall found himself having to back off his traditional full-court pressure with a roster narrowed to six and some cases seven players.
“When I first put in the press, it was to wear people out, not really to turn people over,” Randall said. “This year we were getting to the end of the game, and we were worn out.”
Senior standouts Charlesha Dugas and Whitley Larry are still the focal points, averaging 23.4 and 10.9 points.
Larry, whose produced a triple-double (21 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks) and seven double-doubles, is still the team’s defensive force inside, averaging eight rebounds and 5.8 blocks a game.
Freshman Ti’esha Young (5.0 points) and sophomore Amari Collins (6.9) have alternated starting in Duhon’s role at forward, while Keysuana Moore (5.9) and Tajane Butler (5.3) form the starting backcourt.
“The (new) group playing now was coming off the bench last year and gave us a spark when we needed it,” Randall said. “We’re asking the younger kids to step up and grow up fast.”