ANNA — Bells’ Lady Panthers may be a Class 2A team, but they have size, quickness and 12 wins — having already knocked off the likes of Class 5A Sherman and Denison. These points were clear on Tuesday, Dec. 13, as the senior-laden Lady Panthers strummed Anna’s Lady Coyotes, 43-23, at Anna High School.
“Certainly, they’re a very big team, they gave us a lot of challenges,” Lady Coyotes head coach Grant Bergman said. “Obviously, our size is an Achilles’ heel for us. … Even though we don’t have a lot of big schools on our schedule, the schools we are playing are pretty tough. And (Bells) is certainly one of those at the top of the list. They’ve lost probably twice this year? And they certainly have the respect of a lot of people in this area. All I can ask my girls to do is compete and try to play to whatever advantage we may have in a particular moment. There were some moments where I saw some (good) things, then there were some moments where it was, ‘Man, they’re giving it to us.’”
Freshman Marianna Bert led Anna scorers with six points, hitting nothing but net on her first two 3-point attempts. Junior JaShell Evans was next with four points on two second-half layups. Bells’ top point-getters were Keisha Arellano and Katie Branam with 10 points each.
The Lady Panthers raced out to a 13-6 first-quarter lead and led, 23-11, at halftime. A string of first-half turnovers hurt Anna badly, at one point resulting in six straight points off steals after the Lady Coyotes had cut Bells’ advantage to 7-6.
“You can’t do this, obviously,” Bergman said. “Hind sight is 20-20, but if you take away that stretch, are we going to win the game? Probably not. Is it going to be closer? Yeah, maybe. But if nothing else, I can walk away thinking, ‘You know what? We didn’t have one of those meltdowns that we’ve had in plenty of games in the past.’ … In this game, that was our meltdown. Then, the rest of the game, we broke the pressure decently well — I was proud of them for that. We spaced the floor well. Now, we still didn’t score with the ball, but baby-steps with this particular group, based on our experience in the past and, you know — it’s a process.”
Bert’s second 3 of the night ended that 6-0 Bells run but the Lady Panthers kept up the pressure, finishing the half with three straight layups. Bells started the third stanza with another 6-0 run to lead, 29-11, before Anna answered with a layup by senior Avery Oonk. Branam’s one-handed turnaround jumper gave Bells a 37-15 lead at the end of the third quarter and the Lady Panthers soon stretched their margin to a game-high 25 points, at 40-15. Lady Coyote junior guard Madison Davis fought back with a steal and coast-to-coast layup with 3:08 left to play.
Anna finished the game with five straight points courtesy of a free throw and driving layup by sophomore Angel Dube and Evans’ layup at time expired. Lady Coyote guards scrapped with the bigger Lady Panthers throughout the game. At one point, the 5-4 Davis scuffled to the floor for a loose ball with a 5-10 Bells senior, and Davis popped back up first. Bergman noted that Davis picked up the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ playing softball.
“She’s a competitor,” he said. “And you saw a little of that tonight.”
The Lady Coyotes (3-10) were still missing starting guard Hannah Heath, now out for the season with a torn ACL. Bergman called her “the heart and soul of my team” and “a stabilizing force.”
“She has paid her dues in the weight room, in the off-season, so my heart is certainly hurting for her,” Bergman said. “But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. And I’m going to make sure my kids don’t use that as an excuse. We’re not going to worry about who’s not on the floor. We’re going to worry about those eight of us who are on the floor. … But, you know what? I’ll be honest with you. I love the way my team is reacting. They’ve really understood that everybody’s got to step up.”