ANNA — In the district-opener for both teams, Princeton’s Lady Panthers put up a 30-point fourth quarter to comfortably get by Anna, 63-42, on Friday, Jan. 5, at Anna High School. After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Lady Coyotes fought back to within six, 35-29, on junior guard Marianna Bert’s big 3 as the fourth stanza got started. But from there, Anna turnovers and dead-eye 3-point shooting from Princeton’s Payton Aungst, Alyssa Rivera and Kendra Gillespie sealed the Lady Coyotes’ fate.
Those three Lady Panthers, by the way, combined for six treys — two each — in the game’s final frame.
Nakeitra Mack, Payton Aungst and Rivera led Princeton (11-10, 1-0) with 15, 14 and 10 points, respectively, while senior forward JaShell Evans topped Anna’s scoring list with 10 points and Bert followed with nine.
“It’s the same thing that’s been happening all year,” Lady Coyotes head coach Albert Cager said. “We play really good in spurts and other times we play really, really bad. We’re having trouble playing good consistently. I think we did some really good things but we gave up way too many offensive rebounds. They shot it, they went and got it — they shot it, they went and got it. And I didn’t think their pressure should’ve have bothered us the way it did. They sped us up and we turned it over and turned it over.”
Cager noted other problems as well: “We missed easy layups; we still dribble with our head down; and instead of going to the left side of the court where everybody is open, we go right back to the right side. It all comes down to base fundamentals, being able to box-out — basketball 101.”
The Lady Coyotes ( 4-13, 0-1) also got into early foul trouble this night.
As for positives, Cager said, “I feel like (senior guard) Madison Davis gave us some really, really good minutes. And JaShell played really well in some moments. (Junior guard) Angel Dube, this is her second game back (from injury), she was really out of shape and couldn’t play as well as I would like. For the most part, we had some girls that really stepped up but just were not consistent.”
“Both teams really battled,” Princeton head coach Matthew Butler said. “The difference in the game, I think, really came down to defense and turnovers and making some shots. We made some shots and kind of opened it up towards the end. But our free throws killed us. We were 18 of 37 at the line. That’s concerning. We have to make free throws better than that.”
“They’ve got some good little players that can shoot outside, make some 3s,” Butler added. “It was a good game, very entertaining for a spectator to watch, I think. Both teams played hard.”
The third quarter offered the Lady Coyotes their best chance to catch Princeton, as the Lady Panthers managed just eight points in the frame. Anna scored 12 but it wouldn’t be enough.
Evans opened the period with a put-back layup after rebounding her own shot and the Lady Coyotes were within nine, at 25-16. The evening’s extracurricular entertainment then ensued.
Anna guard Skyla Mackey was fouled and awarded two shots. As she prepared to shoot the first free throw, the scoreboard inexplicably went berserk, showing Princeton up, 122-16. Play was stopped as Mackey shot and missed. After a six-minute delay, and the proper score restored, Mackey swished a free throw. When she was handed the ball for another shot, Lady Panther fans screamed that she had missed her first try and deserved no more.
After some discussion, Mackey was given that additional attempt and made it, drawing Anna to within, 25-18, with 6:18 left in the third stanza. With numerous Princeton fans loudly wailing at the perceived injustice - and at least one clear F-bomb delivered - a referee notified the scorer’s table that the whistle had blown before Mackey’s first shot. (Note: Three or four Lady Panther fans did their community’s reputation no favors with their angry carping at the refs throughout the contest, even with a 12-point Princeton lead.)
Halfway through the third quarter, Anna forwards Hannah Howell and Lexi Stewart were on the bench with four fouls and the Lady Coyotes trailed, 27-18. Bert’s jumper drew Anna to within, 31-26, but a Princeton layup as the period ended put the lead back to seven.
The Lady Panthers led, 12-8, after one quarter and surged to a 12-point margin in the second before taking a 25-14 advantage to the halftime break.
Anna scorers: JaShell Evans 10, Marianna Bert 9, Skyla Mackey 8, Hannah Howell 4, Lexi Stewart 4, Taylor Medrick 4, Shelby Dombrowski 3.
Princeton scorers: Nakeitra Mack 17, Payton Aungst 15, Alyssa Rivera, Amanda Peters 7, Kendra Gillespie 6, Lilly Rodriguez 3, Ryleigh Aungst 2, Haley McCracken 2.