ANNA — In non-district basketball action leading up to Thanksgiving, the Anna Coyotes were defeated at Class 5A Denison, 71-52, on Nov. 25 before topping Class 2A Bland, 49-39, the next day at home.


The Coyotes (2-2) were without guards Bullet Geer and Jaiden Campbell for both games. Geer is recovering from a foot injury and Campbell from appendix surgery. To help fill the void, guard Mason Cotton was moved up from JV for the Bland game.


“He filled in and played really well today,” Anna head coach Kyle Phifer said after the Coyotes’ win on Nov. 26. “He did a lot of good stuff. He brought some energy to us.”


Versus Bland (4-2), guard Jayden Rodgers led Anna scorers with 15 points, including three first-half 3s. “He’s very streaky,” Phifer said. “He can get hot and he can fill it up and he can play. He put on a huge burst for us in the first half. … We have quite a few kids that can shoot it. We’ve just got to get their legs underneath them. We’ve got a couple of kids coming in from football that are still figuring some things out as far as conditioning and that stuff.


“We rebounded really well. Bland’s really big so it was big for us to secure those balls. Also, we got some stops down the stretch. That was huge.”


Bland came out strong, leading by 5 early on, but the Coyotes soon recovered. Rodgers started Anna’s turnaround with a right-corner trey that cut the deficit to 7-5. After a Jaedin Victorian jumper in the lane drew the Coyotes to within 10-7, Rodgers’ top-of-the-key 3 and a left-side shot from downtown by Zay Gentry put Anna up, 13-10.


To start the second quarter, Rodgers’ next effort from beyond the arc gave the Coyotes a 16-12 edge. Jackson Vandagriff’s put-back layup and free throws from Gentry and Rodgers helped fuel Anna’s push to a 22-14 lead before 3s by Vandagriff and Jaden Adams extended the margin to 28-17. With two minutes left in the half, Bland answered with a trey but Rodgers’ jumper in the lane kept the Coyotes’ margin at 10, 30-20. Later, with Anna holding for the last shot, Josiah Mackey canned a jumper for a 12-point Coyotes advantage at the break.


The Tigers had scored 10 points in the game’s first four minutes, but Anna held them to 10 over the final 12 minutes of the half. “I thought we did a good job of keeping them out of the paint,” Phifer said of that stretch.


In the third stanza, Gentry’s left-corner 3 off a Rodgers feed put the Coyotes in charge, 37-22, and a pair of Mackey free throws followed. Bland hit a left-side 3 as the frame expired to get within 13 points.


Midway through the fourth, the Tigers chipped back to within seven on a left-corner 3-pointer but buckets by Mackey, Victorian, Gentry and Vandagriff got the lead back to 13 before Bland closed it out with one more 3.


At Denison, the Yellow Jackets pulled away from Anna in the second half for the 19-point win. Tarrence Gaines and Nate Uber led Denison (2-1) with 11 points each. Three Coyotes scored in double figures, including Adams with 16, Victorian with 12 and Mackey with 11. Anna held a 5-point advantage in first quarter but the Yellow Jackets bounced back to lead,34-30, by halftime.


“We were executing,” Phifer said of Anna’s start. “Their pressure really got to us, wore us down a little bit, I think. But it was good for our kids. In the second half, we got those turnovers down significantly and we were playing better basketball.”


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Anna 15 15 9 13 - 52


Denison 14 21 17 19 - 71


Anna scoring - Jaden Adams 16, Jaedin Victorian 12, Josiah Mackey 11, Zay Gentry 4, Jayden Rodgers 4, Jackson Vandagriff 3, Kadrian Evans 2.


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Bland 12 18 6 13 - 39


Anna 13 19 7 10 - 49


Anna scoring – Jayden Rodgers 15, Jackson Vandagriff 7, Jaedin Victorian 6, Josiah Mackey 6, Jaden Adams 5, Zay Gentry 5.