By Rick Atkinson
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
CELINA – Capping Anna’s tough week of district play, Celina rallied to defeat the Coyotes 59-48 Jan. 24 at Celina High School.
Anna led 29-24 at halftime and held an eight-point edge in the third quarter. But from there the Bobcats chipped back to tie it at 39-all then rolled to a 20-9 finish.
The result dropped Anna to 0-3 in district action and kept the Bobcats perfect at 3-0. Guard Josiah Mackey led Anna with 15 points – with 12 coming in the first half – while fellow guard Bullet Geer knocked down 13 points, including two first-quarter threes.
The Bobcats were missing three starters - one for injury, one for grades and one for a previous ejection - but still had District MVP Karson Stastny, who blew up for 31 points with a six-for-six turn at the free-throw line.
Celina was coming off a third-quarter bench-clearing brawl at Gainesville, a melee that resulted in four Leopards being ejected and suspended for a game. Bobcats head coach Bobby Stastny noted that he didn’t learn that one of his players had been ejected and suspended until the morning of this contest with Anna.
“They kind of showed what they’re made of,” Stastny said of his team’s come-from-behind win. “We were short-handed and [Anna] hit some shots. No. 10 [Mackey] was hitting. They had five threes in the first half. I made a little adjustment, put my son on No. 10. … But they were hot. You’ve got to give them credit. They played well. We just picked up the defense a little bit.”
Coyotes head coach Kyle Phifer was asked about keys to Celina’s third-quarter rally.
“We quit getting rebounds on the defensive end and had a couple of bad possessions there - a quick shot, a turnover – and we kind of let them back into it,” he said. “And we lost [Karson Stastny] there. We did a very poor job on him in the second half. It wasn’t just one thing. It was a couple of things.”
This defeat for the Coyotes came on the heels of a one-point loss to Melissa in the district-opener and a two-point setback versus Aubrey Jan. 21. In Aubrey’s 51-49 win at Anna, Mackey finished with a team-high 15 points and Campbell collected 11, with both players canning three treys each. Jayden Hollis, with three threes, led Aubrey with 17 points and Carter May chipped in 14. The Coyotes led 27-19 at halftime and still clung to a 36-35 advantage after three quarters.
“We’ve got to figure out why, in the second half, we’re just not doing things right,” Phifer said after the Celina game. “We’ve got to get that fixed. We still have an opportunity to get two next week versus Sanger and Gainesville. We’ve got to get ready to go.”
Geer’s pair of threes along with single downtowners by Mackey and Zay Gentry sparked the Coyotes to a 19-13 lead over Celina at the end of one stanza. Anna kept up the pressure in the second frame, moving ahead, 25-18, on a Mackey three from the right side. After Mackey stopped-and-popped from the lane for a 27-22 Coyotes lead, Anna forward Jackson Vandagriff closed out the half with two made free throws after being fouled on a three-point shot.
With two minutes gone in the third quarter, Mackey scored the frame’s first points, nailing a contested jumper from the lane - plus one - for a 32-24 Coyotes lead. Celina quickly stole back the momentum with six-straight points, all by Stastny. After posting his own layup-and-one, Stastny came back with a left-side trey sending Anna to a timeout, up 32-30.
Out of that break, the Coyotes fought back with Geer banking home a jumper from the lane and two Jaden Adams free throws, but Celina stayed close, 36-35. Jaiden Campbell’s left-corner three would give Anna a 39-35 lead, but from there the Bobcats surged. After a short jumper by Celina’s Bryson Brown, Stastny’s turnaround J in the lane knotted the score at 39 as the third frame expired.
To open the fourth, Brown’s layup-and-one gave the Bobcats their first lead since the first quarter, 42-39. As Celina chugged on, the Coyotes shots stopped falling and with four minutes left Anna called timeout, down 51-43. The lead went to 55-43 before a Vandagriff layup cut it to 10 with 1:39 to go – but the Coyotes got no closer. Two Stastny free throws pushed the margin to 59-45 before Vandagriff’s left-side trey ended the evening’s scoring.
Anna 19 10 10 11 - 48
Celina 13 11 15 20 - 59
Anna scoring – Josiah Mackey 15, Bullet Geer 13, Jackson Vandagriff, nine; Jaden Adams, four; Jaiden Campbell, three; Zay Gentry, three; Jaedin Victorian, one.
Aubrey 10 9 16 16 - 51
Anna 12 15 9 13 - 49
Anna scoring – Josiah Mackey 15, Jaiden Campbell 11, Jaden Adams, seven; Jaedin Victorian, six; Jackson Vandagriff, five.