ANNA — This was maybe the one Anna head coach Albert Cager has been looking for. He allowed as much after his Lady Coyotes dominated long-time nemesis Celina, 51-37, on Friday, Jan. 26 at home. After all, this was a win over an opponent that Anna perhaps wasn’t “supposed” to beat; another game where a school name on a jersey helped dictate the outcome, as Cager has posited in the past.


Not this time. These Lady Coyotes, in climbing back into playoff contention, even beat back Celina’s late rally when their 10-point lead was chopped to two. They simply stormed back with 14-0 run to close it out.


“Some things finally came together for us,” Cager said. “And I just told the girls, ‘As well as we played, we can still play a whole lot better.’ We can play with anybody in this district if we do the things that we’ve been taught to do.”


As for Anna’s clutch response to the Lady Bobcats’ comeback try, Cager said, “We’ve been working in practice on being able to play in crunch moments and being loose. Coming into the game we kept talking about, ‘We have to be loose.’ When you play loose, you’re not afraid to make mistakes. When you’re not afraid to make mistakes, you can go out there and just play ball. I think they did a really good job of executing the game plan that was put forth to them.”


Celina defeated the Lady Coyotes, 44-32, on Jan. 9.


The win moved Anna (2-5) into a tie for the fourth playoff spot in District 11-4 with three games left. And it also served notice that these Lady Coyotes may be ready make some noise down the stretch.


Forward JaShell Evans led Anna scorers with 12 points and guard Skyla Mackey added 11. Down low inside, Evans and Hannah Howell battled strong, with increasing confidence as the contest progressed.


Anna’s offense moved the ball smartly around the perimeter — with the extra pass inside when open. And more than enough Lady Coyote 3s found their mark, keeping Celina on its heels.


“We’ve been telling them all year,” Cager said, ‘The more you move the ball, the more the defense is going to open up.’”


Asked to name some Lady Coyotes who had particularly good games, Cager offered up a couple — then three, four … five … six. He wound up naming every Anna player that took the court. “I truly believe it was a team effort,” he said, “where everybody played their part.”


Hurting the Lady Bobcats this night was their tough turn at the charity stripe. Awarded 36 free throw attempts to Anna’s nine, Celina sank only 13, or 36-percent. The Lady Coyotes canned four of their tries for 44-percent.


Celina (2-5) opened the contest with a 7-4 lead while steals from Mackey and Evans helped keep the Lady Coyotes close. Late in that first quarter, Anna made its move. Mackey nabbed another steal and fed the ball to guard Marianna Bert who drained a deep 3 from the left side to tie. Moments later, guard Shelby Dombrowski, off the bench, bombed in another trey and the Lady Coyotes led, 10-7. Before the Lady Bobcats could say “purple,” Mackey came back from the left side with another downtown bucket and Anna’s advantage was six. Celina closed to within 13-10 with a layup and free throw as the frame expired.


In the early minutes of the second, Dombrowski kept up the Lady Coyotes’ long-range attack with another 3, then Howell’s layup off Mackey’s assist put Anna’s lead at 18-12.


Trailing, 18-14, Celina missed four free throws in a row and the Lady Coyotes soon made them pay. Taking a long pass from Evans, Mackey set up well beyond the 3-point arc and swished another 3-pointer. With under a minute left in the half, Bert popped a jumper in the lane for a 23-16 Anna advantage and Evans’ put-back of her own shot provided the Lady Coyotes’ 25-17 margin at the break.


A Celina layup began the third, but Anna kept up the pressure with Mackey’s next 3 and another close-in basket from Evans, this one off a Madison Davis assist. With the Lady Coyotes up 30-21, Davis stopped-and-popped a jumper in the lane. After forward Lexi Stewart’s put-back of a Mackey 3 that wouldn’t go, Anna led by 10, 37-27, with half the third stanza remaining. That’s when Celina’s 8-0 charge that stretched three minutes into the fourth put the Lady Coyotes to the test. Bert’s big 3 from the right ended the run and Davis soon got the ball into Evans who wasfouled. With 3:18 left to play, Evans coolly drained both free throws and Anna’s lead was back to seven, 42-35.


Howell then took it to the hoop for 2 and was fouled. Her equally icy touch at the line made it 45-35. Chastity Brown-Littleton soon claimed a steal and Cager would call timeout. Out of the break, Evans pumped in two more off Davis’ inbounds pass from under Anna’s basket. After steals by Mackey and Howell slowed Celina’s attempts to answer, Evans took a long inbounds pass from Howell for a layup then Howell canned another off a Mackey assist and, with 20 seconds left, Anna led, 51-35.


That’s called “game over.” That’s called “finishing.”


Anna scorers: JaShell Evans 12, Skyla Mackey 11, Marianna Bert 8, Hannah Howell 7, Shelby Dombrowski 6, Madison Davis 3, Lexi Stewart 2, Chastity Brown-Littleton 2.