By Rick Atkinson


For the Anna-Melissa Tribune


ANNA – Anna ended 2019 on a high note on New Year’s Eve, dominating the Caddo Mills Lady Foxes 60-46 at home.


Though Caddo Mills got out fast in this non-district battle that tipped off before noon, the Class 4A visitors couldn’t hang once the Lady Coyotes got untracked.


Anna (13-8) stormed to 24 second-quarter points to lead 30-27 at halftime, then bested the Lady Foxes the rest of the way.


No one scored more this day than Lady Coyotes guard Marianna Bert, who finished with 21 points and had at least six steals. Anna forward Qua Fisher came up big as well with 14 points and key plays throughout the contest.


And when forward Bre Traylor got into first-half foul trouble, Lady Coyotes Head Coach Justin Baldia was able to call on solid back-up from the bench.


“We just had to wake up,” Baldia said of his team’s second-stanza turnaround. “We have to come out with more energy than we did today. We’ve seen what type of team we are when we come out with that intensity, that energy, that fire. And we’ve seen what kind of team we are when we don’t.


“We weren’t attacking and didn’t really seem too enthusiastic about basketball. … I challenged Marianna. She’s got to be the engine for us and she was kind of being a little bit passive. She answered the bell so I was proud of her for that.


“It was good team win. With Bre in foul trouble, other people had to step up. Ckia Morrison did a huge job for us. She plays the top position on our press. We tell her, ‘See ball – get ball,’ and she did that. It allowed [guard] Kaycee [Redwine] and Qua to stay in the trapper wing positions. And Marianna, what can you say? She’s incredible.”


Baldia also praised Fisher for nabbing steals and “finishing out to the rim,” and forward Lexi Stewart, who posted eight points. “We need 8 to 10 [points] from Lexi every night,” he said. “And Kaycee Redwine [with 9 points] did a great job in transition.”


Four first-quarter threes boosted Caddo Mills (12-9) to a 14-6 start, with two coming in the frame’s final minute. That lead moved to 16-6 as the second frame began, but the Lady Coyotes soon turned the tables. Stewart’s close-range bucket off a Fisher feed started the comeback and Bert quickly followed with a point from the charity stripe.


Bert’s layup - off another Fisher assist - then got Anna to within 16-13 before she capped her team’s 10-0 run with a left-corner trey, a shot sent Caddo Mills to timeout, tied at 16, with five minutes left in the half.


The Lady Foxes regained the advantage with a jumper from the lane, but back-to-back layups by Fisher gave Anna its first lead, at 20-18. Caddo Mills went up by 3 twice more before the break – though neither mini-surge would hold. Stewart’s next layup and two Redwine free throws doused the first deficit and free throws by Shataelyn King and Fisher cut down the second.


Bert’s breakaway layup then put Anna up for good 28-27 with 17 seconds left in the half. Fisher followed with a key steal and drive to the bucket for the Lady Coyotes’ three-point lead at halftime.


With four fouls, Traylor sat out the third quarter in case she was needed down the stretch. Fisher’s put-back layup and bucket from Bert quickly built Anna’s advantage to 34-27. Bert finished her next steal with a coast-to-coast drive for two and two King free throws soon stretched the margin to 40-29.


After Stewart put back a Fisher three attempt, another Bert steal for a layup kept the Lady Coyotes up by double digits, 44-34, as the third frame waned.


Traylor reentered the game in the fourth as Caddo Mills’ hill to climb grew to 15 points. King’s layup off a Fisher feed sent Anna’s lead to 57-43 with under three minutes left to play. The Lady Coyotes pressed on to a 17-point edge with 1:05 to go – securing the year-end ‘dub.’


Asked about overcoming the slow start, Bert said, “We realized we were going really slow and not closing out high and keeping them on one side of the floor. Once we started looking up the floor and limiting them to one shot that was rushed, we were able to get back in it and get ahead.”


“I’m feeling more comfortable,” Fisher said of her game. “[Coach Baldia] is giving me the opportunity to attack when I want to and giving me the freedom to make plays. I’m getting more spark as we keep on practicing.”


On Jan. 3 at Anna High School, the Lady Coyotes stopped Highway 5 rival Van Alstyne 50-45 as Traylor and Bert blew up for a game-high 19 points each. Anna (14-8) led, 27-24, at halftime then held off the soon-to-be-Class 4A Lady Panthers in a tight second half.


Torin Riddick posted a team-high 18 points for Van Alstyne. ________________________________________________________


Caddo Mills 14 13 7 12 - 46


Anna 6 24 15 15 - 60


Anna scoring – Marianna Bert (21), Qua Fisher (14), Kaycee Redwine (nine), Lexi Stewart (eight), Shataelyn -King (five), Bre Traylor (three).


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Van Alstyne 12 12 10 11 - 45


Anna 18 9 11 12 - 50


Anna scoring – Bre Traylor 19, Marianna Bert 19, Qua Fisher (seven), Kaycee Redwine (three), Lexi Stewart (one), Shataelyn King (one).