ANNA - Anna’s Coyotes overcame a slow start to beat back Howe, 62-57, in a stirring non-district basketball match-up on Nov. 27 at Anna High School. Hampered by poor shooting early on and 14 first-half turnovers, the Coyotes grabbed the lead in the third quarter and stretched it to double digits in the fourth before a tense finish. Ultimately, it was clutch offensive execution by Anna and a pair of ice-cold Micah Cotton free throws that thwarted the Bulldogs’ furious late rally.


“I thought we made some plays late,” Coyotes head coach Kyle Phifer said. “Especially down the stretch, we had some guys really step up and make some big plays, some finishes. … Things didn’t go our way [early]. We shot the ball terribly. For us, that’s a big deal with our size. We have to be able to shoot it. We didn’t play very well at all. But they’ve matured to a point where they can win when they don’t play well. I’m not sure we could have done that last year. I was proud of that effort.”


“They just wore us down,” Howe head coach Eric Johns said. “We played good with them for a while, had the lead for a while, but they’re just so strong athletically. And they’re a good defensive team. We wore out and they outplayed us at the end. But it was a good game. … Anytime we play a quality opponent our goal is to win, but our goal is [also] to improve and I thought we did that tonight.”


Adding to the exciting environs this night as the two teams clawed to the finish was a rowdy, loud and proud Anna student section behind the basket on the court’s west end.


Cotton posted a team-high 15 points for the Coyotes from his guard position, including eight in the shoot-out fourth quarter when the teams combined for 45 points. Other double-digit scorers for Anna (2-2) were forward Jackson Vandagriff with 12 and guard Bullet Geer with 10. Devin Porter led the Class 3A Bulldogs with 17 points and Noah Campbell had 16, including four 3s in the fourth frame.


Howe (1-1) led, 11-6, after one quarter but by halftime, Anna had drawn to within 25-23. With the teams deadlocked at 33 late in the third quarter, the Coyotes made their move. A steal by Geer soon had him at the free throw line where he sank two shots. Noah Palshaw followed with a put-back layup and Anna led 37-33. After a Bulldogs free throw, the Coyotes worked for the stanza’s final shot with under 15 seconds left. Just before the buzzer, Geer leaned back and drained a dagger-3 from the left corner for a 40-34 Anna advantage.


Geer’s encore for that came early in the fourth when he fired up a shot while diving out of bounds on the Coyotes’ left-side baseline. The ball found the net and the lead was eight. Anna’s advantage soon stretched to 48-37 on a Jeremiah Ivery layup-and-1 and Cotton’s right-side trey. The Coyotes’ Josh O’Bier and Howe’s Noah Campbell then traded 3s and Anna’s lead remained a comfortable 11 points — 51-40, with five minutes left to play. That’s when Howe answered and, with 2:21 remaining, the Coyotes’ lead was down to 55-50. After an Anna timeout, the Coyotes needed to burn clock but still cap each possession with a bucket. This they couldn’t have executed any better. On successive possessions, Anna used up at least 30 seconds before Geer fired the ball inside for wide-open layups — first to Vandagriff and a 57-50 lead, then to Cotton for a 59-52 edge with under a minute left.


Down, 60-54, with 10 seconds on the clock, Howe canned its fifth 3-pointer of the quarter — an Elijah Campbell bomb from the right side — and the Bulldogs called timeout. Out of the break, Cotton was quickly fouled and went the line to either seal the win or give Howe one last chance. With 5.9 seconds remaining Cotton was cool, draining both to secure a five-point Anna win.


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Howe 11 14 9 23 - 57


Anna 6 17 17 22 - 62


Anna scoring - Micah Cotton 15, Jackson Vandagriff 12, Bullet Geer 10, Josh O’Bier 8, Jeremiah Ivery 7, Noah Palshaw 4, Kamden Spence 3, Jayden Rodgers 3.