Dreher forward Kaydra Duckett has been more focused than ever during her senior season.
After helping the Blue Devils to the Class 3A title in 2012, Duckett said she hoped she and teammate Makayla Johnson could collect three championships rings.
But Dreher’s 2013 campaign ended with a third-round loss to Wren. Since then, Duckett and the Blue Devils have had laser focus on getting back to Colonial Life Arena.
“They felt that they had not done their best. They felt that they had let their school and their community down,” coach Teresa Jones said. “This year, they said this was their redemption year, and Kaydra was the one that started that. So at the beginning of this season, we seemed to be more focused.”
Duckett has averaged 16 points per game, leading the team, and contributed five rebounds, three assists and four steals to help push Dreher (21-4) to Saturday’s title game against Crestwood.
“The same reason why I have people cheering for me is the same reason I have people cheering against me,” Duckett said.
“Kaydra is a fighter; she’s very competitive. The crowds from the opposing team are always on her,” Jones said. “I tell her that people are going to say all kinds of things, and you don’t have to talk back, you don’t have to be confrontational.
“Just let your playing do the talking for you.”
Duckett tries to concentrate on playing her best game, rather than on proving her hecklers wrong.
“The biggest thing that I always focus on is just remaining focused so I can win the game,” she said.
Focus was the name of the Blue Devils’ game this season, and Duckett did not have to do it alone.
Different players took the lead. Seniors Johnson and Ashira Sims kept the squad positive and upbeat. Sophomore Jhileiya Dunlap led the team in scoring for much of the season and is the team’s rebounding leader with 14.4 points and seven rebounds per game. And freshman Jalen Murray pitched in 10 points and six boards.
Still, there were diversions along the way. Two losses in a holiday tournament displayed a need to refocus. Then, two losses to rival Lower Richland – one in overtime – kept the Blue Devils from their intermediate goal of winning the Region 4 championship.
“But sometimes our plan isn’t the best plan, and to not be region champions but be playing for a state championship – we’ll take God’s plan any day,” Jones said.
The plan for Duckett has her playing her final high school game on the court she will call home in college.
“I think she’s really looking at it like it’s her home now,” Jones said.
Duckett said the Carolina connection will add to the atmosphere in the state final game.
“The Colonial Life Arena brings a whole new excitement,” she said. “It’s just a stepping stone, and God has put me here for a reason.
“I’m going to tell you right now, I might be nervous; I might miss the first two shots,” Duckett said.
After that, focus.
And after that, hopefully, victory.