ANNA — You know it’s been a good night for your basketball team when everyone on the roster scores points. That was the case for Anna head coach Albert Cager and the Lady Coyotes on Tuesday, Dec. 12, as the team rolled to a 48-23 non-district victory at home versus Class 4A Wills Point. Sophomore forward Lexi Stewart led Anna (4-9) with a game-high 15 points while senior forward JaShell Evans and sophomore guard Shelby Dombrowski added seven and six points, respectively.
The Lady Coyotes led, 19-11, at halftime and held Wills Point (6-7) to single-digit quarters throughout the contest.
“I think our defense was our best offense,” Cager said. “Our defense dictated things that were going on. When we were playing good defense and forcing turnovers, it allowed us to have easy baskets on the other end. When we’d get stops and we’d get a rebound, it allowed us to have a little more energy when we’d go on offense.”
The game’s first points — a Lady Tigers 3 — didn’t come till nearly midway through the first period. When it fell, Cager called timeout. Out of the break, Stewart quickly got Anna on the board with a layup then grabbed a steal but the shot wouldn’t go. Stewart’s next layup, off a Marianna Bert assist, put the Lady Coyotes up, 4-3, then her turnaround jumper in the lane put the Lady Coyotes up for good at 6-5.
A Dombrowski defensive rebound then led to Bert’s trey from the left-front and, with 33 seconds left in the first stanza, Anna led by four. A put-back by Lady Coyote guard Skyla Mackey after forward Taylor Medrick’s steal and shot attempt ended first-quarter scoring.
Anna stretched its lead to 14-5 in the second frame on Medrick’s jumper from the right before free throws from forward Hannah Howell and Stewart kept the lead at nine as halftime approached. After a Wills Point 3 cut the deficit to 16-11, forward FeKyra Wells got to the line for the Lady Coyotes with 15 ticks left in the half. After sinking her first shot, Wells’ next one rebounded to Evans who laid it back in for Anna’s margin at the break.
In the third quarter, the Lady Coyotes muscled ahead, 25-11, on back-to-back steals and layups. Mackey nabbed the first steal and got the ball to Stewart for the bucket. Sophomore guard Kaycee Redwine got the next one — and the layup — after a Mackey deflection.
The Lady Tigers responded with a 3-pointer and a jumper but Evans’ layup off Medrick’s steal and a running layup from the left side by Chastity Brown-Littleton quickly put down the Wills Point rally. After a Howell block, her close-range 2 off a nice assist from Evans moved the Lady Coyotes’ lead to 31-16. Evans came back with an assist in to Wells under the basket before the stanza expired.
In the fourth, Dombrowski bombed two straight shots from beyond the arc, the first off an inbounds pass from Stewart. Her second trey put Anna up, 40-17, with six minutes left to play. Stewart and Evans added buckets down the final stretch.
Wells’ top-of-the-key jumper closed out the evening’s scoring.
Cager commented on Evans’ increased role away from the basket. “She has shown a big potential to not just handle the ball but be able to make passes where people can actually score from them,” he said. “So we’re allowing her to handle the ball more, giving her a little more freedom.”
This was Mackey’s first night back after missing the Highway 5 Tournament with an ankle injury. “She’s a huge key to our team,” Cager said. “She’s our main ball-handler right now.” Still out is junior guard Angel Dube. “It’s so important that we get Angel Dube back so (Mackey) will get some help handling the ball.”
Still out due to injury — and not returning — are senior guard Hannah Heath and senior forward Taija Pritchett.
Asked his thoughts on the Lady Coyotes’ progress to date, Cager said, “I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. I feel like the steps have been laid before us. All we’ve got to do is continue to make progress. Today, we won by 25 points but I couldn’t care less about the score. It’s all about how we look and how we play. The score doesn’t matter until Jan. 5, (the district-opener).”
Anna scorers: Lexi Stewart 15, JaShell Evans 7, Shelby Dombrowski 6, FeKyra Wells 5, Hannah Howell 4, Marianna Bert 3, Skyla Mackey 2, Taylor Medrick 2, Chastity Brown-Littleton 2, Kaycee Redwine 2.