Who's best? Rogers or Dugalic? Both have a case for being Ms. Basketball
Who was the best girls basketball player in Illinois this season?
The top two candidates reside right here in the suburbs: Maine West's Angela Dugalic and Lake Park's Darrione Rogers. The seniors finished 1-2 in The Associated Press Class 4A all-state voting. Each also was named to the coaches' association first team.
Our own John Leusch covered Dugalic her four seasons with the Warriors, and Orrin Schwarz followed Rogers throughout high school.
We asked both writers to tell us why each player deserves to be Ms. Basketball for Illinois in 2019-20. Leusch will go first, writing about Dugalic.
Angela Dugalic was a threat no matter where she was on the floor.
If she was under her own basket, she'd have no trouble zipping a perfect home run pass all the way to the other end of the floor to connect with a teammate for an easy layup.
If she were under her own basket, of course, she could flip in a quick bucket. But with her keen floor awareness, she was just as efficient firing the ball back outside to an open teammate for a wide open 3-pointer.
Defensively, she was a blocking machine. In fact, it was one outright block and an altering of a shot -- both in the final five seconds -- that secured Maine West's overtime win against Evanston in the this year's sectional final.
Her dribbling skills -- at 6-foot-4 -- were as good as a guard as she'd often help the Warriors' break the press.
It's interesting to see your description of Dugalic, John, because it could easily describe Rogers also.
Of course at 5-foot-11 Rogers wasn't as likely to block a shot as the taller Dugalic, but Rogers was a strong defender. She averaged 3.78 steals a game this season.
Rogers' teammates learned to expect a pass from Rogers anytime she had the ball, no matter where on the court or the angle defenders might have. Often Rogers had to make those passes out of a double- or triple-team, because she was the focus of an opponent's game plan.
But she was a bigger threat to score. She averaged nearly 26 points and just over 10 rebounds a game. She made 82 3-point shots this season, often from well behind the arc because there was no way any opponent would allow her to spot up at the line.
And good luck defending Rogers off the dribble with just one player. Rogers handled the ball as well as anyone in Illinois, driving to the basket and often getting fouled. She attempted a whopping 336 free throws this season, making 83% of them.
She could produce even better numbers at DePaul the next four seasons. The Blue Demons play an up-tempo style, and Rogers is much less likely to face two or three defenders each time she gets the ball in college.
Playing in a school-record 135 games, Dugalic finished with 1,782 career points, 1,067 rebounds, 285 steals, 237 assists and 150 blocked shots.
Yes, that's right, the 6-foot-4 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year had 285 steals and 237 assists.
Easy to see why she was so heavily recruited before choosing and one of the nation's women's basketball powerhouses, Oregon, to continue her decorated career.
And there's more off the court: she created and designed logos, T-shirt and artwork for Maine West teams, volunteered locally for the Feed My Starving Children and Operation Christmas Child and maintained a 3.40 GPA.
Countless opposing coaches knew she was unstoppable, including Dave Yates of Class 4A champion Fremd.
"You don't stop her with one kid," said Yates, who like so many opposing coaches gave Dugalic extra attention with his team's defense.
"She is a tremendous player," said Maine West coach Kim de Marigny of Dugalic, who played a key role on the Warriors' 2019 undefeated state championship team. "But an even better person -- just the complete package of athlete and individual."
Again, what coaches Yates and de Marigny said about Dugalic mirrors what I've heard so often about Rogers. That's what makes this such a tough choice for statewide voters. Both Rogers and Dugalic are great players and better people.
What stands out about Rogers this season is how she led Lake Park downstate for the first time in program history.
At the beginning of the season, few observers would have expected Lake Park to play in a supersectional, much less win one. The Lancers' lineup included two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior alongside Rogers.
She carried the team through the first few months of the season until the younger players showed they had gained confidence and caught up to the speed of the varsity game enough to support Rogers.
It's a tribute to Rogers that she could adjust her game to fit the evolving abilities of the players around her. She and her teammates were rewarded with a fourth-place Class 4A finish.